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Economic News Release

Commissioner's Statement on the Employment Situation News Release

Advance copies of this statement are made available to the press
under lock-up conditions with the explicit understanding that the
data are embargoed until 8:30 a.m. Eastern Standard Time.
                          Statement of
                           Keith Hall
                   Bureau of Labor Statistics
                           before the
                    Joint Economic Committee
                     UNITED STATES CONGRESS
                      Friday, March 6, 2009

Madam Chair and Members of the Committee:

     Thank you for the opportunity to discuss the employment and
unemployment data we released this morning.
     The sharp and widespread contraction in the labor market
continued in February.  Nonfarm payroll employment fell by
651,000, following declines of 681,000 in December and 655,000 in
January.  Since the recession began in December 2007, job losses
have totaled 4.4 million, well more than half of which occurred
in the past 4 months.  In February, the unemployment rate climbed
from 7.6 to 8.1 percent, the highest rate in over 25 years.
     Manufacturing employment declined by 168,000 in February and
has dropped by 1.3 million since the start of the recession.
Employment has fallen in nearly all manufacturing industries
during this period.  In February, manufacturing hours decreased
by two-tenths of an hour, as did factory overtime hours.
     Construction employment fell by 104,000 in February with
losses throughout the sector.  This industry has shed 904,000
jobs since the recession began, with about half of the decline
occurring in the past 4 months.
     In February, employment continued to decline sharply
throughout most of the service-providing sector.  Professional
and business services employment dropped by 180,000, including
78,000 jobs lost at temporary help agencies.  Employment in
temporary help has fallen by 686,000 since the recession began.
Other large over-the-month job losses occurred in transportation
and warehousing (-49,000), especially trucking; financial
activities (-44,000); retail trade (-40,000); and wholesale trade
     Elsewhere in the service-providing sector, health care
employment continued to grow with an increase of 27,000 in
February, about in line with its recent trend.
     Average hourly earnings for private-sector production and
nonsupervisory workers increased by 3 cents, or 0.2 percent, in
February.  Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have
risen by 3.6 percent.  From January 2008 to January 2009, the
seasonally adjusted Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners
and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) fell by 0.7 percent.
     Measures from the survey of households also showed continued
deterioration of labor market conditions.  The unemployment rate
jumped by half a percentage point in February to 8.1 percent, the
highest rate since December 1983.  Jobless rates continued to
trend up across the major demographic groups in February.  The
number of unemployed swelled by 851,000 to 12.5 million.
     Since the recession began, the rise in unemployment has been
concentrated among persons who lost jobs, as opposed to job
leavers or people joining the labor force.  From December 2007 to
February 2009, the number of job losers has doubled to 7.7
million, and their share of total unemployment has risen from
50.0 to 62.3 percent.
     The number of unemployed individuals experiencing long
spells of joblessness also has risen.  In February, 2.9 million
persons had been unemployed for 27 weeks or longer, up from 1.3
million at the start of the recession.
     The employment-population ratio was 60.3 percent in
February, down slightly over the month and well below its 62.7
percent level at the start of the recession.  Among the employed,
the number of persons working part time who would prefer to be
working full time climbed sharply over the month.  There were 8.6
million such workers in February, an increase of 787,000 over the
month and nearly 4 million since the recession began.
     Among persons who were neither working nor looking for work
in February, about 2.1 million were classified as marginally
attached to the labor force, up from about 1.6 million a year
earlier.  These individuals wanted a job, were available for
work, and had looked for a job within the last 12 months.  The
number of discouraged workers, a subset of the marginally
attached who believed no jobs were available for them, has nearly
doubled over the past 12 months to 731,000.
     In summary, nonfarm payroll employment fell by 651,000 in
February, and the unemployment rate rose to 8.1 percent.  Since
the beginning of the recession in December 2007, job losses have
totaled 4.4 million.
     My colleagues and I now would be glad to answer your

Last Modified Date: March 06, 2009