US job losses deepen as employers cut 80 000 posts

United States employers cut a surprisingly large 80 000 jobs in March, marking the biggest decline in employment in five years, a government report showed on Friday.

The mounting job losses swelled the national unemployment rate to 5,1% last month, compared with 4,8% in February.

The March non-farm job losses marked the largest decline since March 2003 and the start of the Iraq war, while the unemployment rate was at its highest level since September 2005, just after Hurricane Katrina struck the US Gulf coast.

The depth of March’s job cuts, which marked a third straight month of job losses, caught most economists off guard after expectations of a 50 000 decline in non-farm payrolls.

The Labour Department survey on non-farm payrolls also revised February job losses to 76 000 positions, compared with a prior estimate of 63 000, showing that February’s job picture was worse than initially thought.

A total of 232 000 positions were cut by US employers during the first three months of 2008.

The subdued employment reading supports the view of a growing number of economists that the world’s largest economy is in a recession after economic growth slowed dramatically to a 0,6% pace during the fourth quarter of 2007.

Economists said the latest employment report would also pressure the Federal Reserve to continue slashing interest rates. — AFP

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