The unemployment avalanche gathered momentum in January as the U.S. economy lost 598,000 jobs, the government reported on Feb. 6—and once again the losses were heaviest in the goods-producing sector. Education, health care, and government actually added jobs in defiance of the worst economic downturn since the 1970s.
For workers who make, distribute, and sell stuff—rather than provide services—the news was unrelentingly bad. Manufacturing lost 207,000 jobs in January for its worst performance since 1982. Employment also fell by 45,000 in retailing and 111,000 in construction. Over the past year construction job declines are the highest since 1943, according to economist John Silvia of Wachovia.
“The only ‘positive’ of today’s report is that these ugly numbers put even more pressure on policymakers to finally agree on fiscal measures to stop the downward spiral of the economy,” wrote UniCredit economist Harm Bandholz in an instant analysis of the numbers.
The loss of jobs in January nearly exceeded the blowout loss of 602,000 jobs in December 1974. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had expected a loss of about 524,000 jobs, according to the median estimate. The January unemployment rate rose to 7.6%, the highest since 1992, from 7.2% in December.
See Also: 241,749 Jobs Lost in January