April 3rd, 2009
12:21 PM ET

Financial Dispatch: Job losses piling up

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/04/03/art.job.line.fair.jpg]

Andrew Torgan
CNN Financial News Producer

Job losses continued to mount in March and unemployment rate hit a 25-year high.

Employers trimmed 663,000 jobs from their payrolls last month, roughly in-line with forecasts of a loss of 658,000 jobs, and the unemployment rate rose to 8.5%. That’s the highest level since November, 1983.

For the first three months of the year, 2 million jobs have been lost, and 5.1 million jobs have been lost since the recession began in December, 2007.

To put the three-month loss in context, if no more jobs are lost over the next nine months, 2009 would still be the fourth worst year for job losses since the government started tracking the number of workers in 1939.

The losses were felt throughout all areas of the economy, with the manufacturing and construction sectors as well as business and professional services industries all cutting more than 100,000 jobs each in March.

Retailers and leisure and hospitality companies also trimmed jobs, as did the government. The only industry to post a gain in jobs during the month was the education and health care services group - and that sector only added a modest 8,000 jobs in the month.

Employers cut back the number of hours for their workers as well, and there was an increase in the number of people working part-time jobs who want full-time employment. A record 9 million Americans were "underemployed" in March.

A record 32.2 million people – or one in every 10 Americans - received food stamps at the latest count, the government said Thursday.

The average benefit was $112.82 per person in January - the third time in five months that enrollment set a record.

Food stamp enrollment rose in 46 of the 50 states during January as the national total rose by 580,000 people, or 1.3%, from December.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that battered mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac expect to pay about $210 million in retention bonuses to 7,600 employees over 18 months, according to a letter from the mortgage companies' regulator to Sen. Charles Grassley.

The maximum retention bonus for any individual executive under the plan will total $1.5 million during the 18 months ending in early 2010, according to the letter, which provides previously undisclosed details about the bonuses.

The Senate passed a $3.53 trillion version of the federal budget for fiscal year 2010 late Thursday in a party-line vote, ending several weeks of acrimonious partisan debate

The package was approved on a 55 to 43 vote. GOP Senators Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, and Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine - who voted in favor of President Barack Obama's stimulus bill last month - voted against what is essentially the blueprint of the president's economic policies going forward.

Earlier in the evening, the House of Representatives passed its own version of the $3.55 trillion budget, capping off a long day of debate and voting marked by the defeat of several alternative spending plans.

Gas prices declined by 4-tenths of a cent overnight to $2.041 a gallon - the third consecutive decline in the average price of gas this week.

Twenty-five states and the District of Columbia have regular unleaded gas prices of $2 and higher. The highest gas prices are in Alaska ($2.523).

Twenty-five states have regular unleaded gas prices below $2. The cheapest gas prices are in Wyoming ($1.863).

And finally, shares of BlackBerry maker Research In Motion soared 20% percent this morning - one day after the company surprised investors with a strong profit report and an optimistic outlook for its smartphones despite the dismal economy.

The company even gave credit to President Obama, an avid BlackBerry user, who has given the brand the ultimate celebrity endorsement.

Filed under: Andrew Torgan • Economy • Finance • Job Market • Unemployment
soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Lisa in CA

    Maybe in the next Stimulus bill they can figure out a way to get money to the people who need loans to back on their feet rather than making loans available to those who don't really need them. All that tax payer money to bail out these financial institutions and still the ones who will get the economy back on track aren't getting the money.

    Maybe Obama will finally understand Einstein's adage about insanity being doing the same thing over and over yet expecting a different result. Maybe he will finally make a change and actually think outside the box.

    April 3, 2009 at 1:57 pm |
  2. JC- Los Angeles

    Alan Greenspan should be charged with dereliction of duty and be made to return his $6 miilion book advance.

    Why our once proud nation turned to a fedspeakian, octogenarian for post 9/11 guidance is anyone's guess.

    A true hack for the ages.

    April 3, 2009 at 1:14 pm |
  3. Annie Kate

    The job numbers are awful. I was hoping for an improvement – obviously none there. How long does it take for the stimulus package and TARP take to work.....seems like we have put out a great deal of money and we're still as bad off as we were to being with - and with jobs even worse.

    I know it takes time to rebound and that we have been told to be patient. Being patient would be easier to do if we didn't have to worry about the mortgage, groceries, and all the other bills in life that won't wait – they want their money now or out you go. The blood has been just about squeezed out of this middle class turnip....we need relief rather quickly.

    April 3, 2009 at 1:09 pm |