Largely in line with expectations, the economy shed 651,000 jobs last month according to figures released this morning by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Declines in employment were widespread. All the major sectors of the economy, with the exception of government and healthcare, shed jobs in February.
Since the recession began in December 2007, 4.4 million jobs have been lost, representing the largest 14-month decline on record. In percentage terms, the 3.2 percent drop since December 2007 is the largest 14-month decline in 50 years. Today’s report shows that conditions are worsening: 60 percent of the total jobs lost in the current recession have taken place in just the last four months.
Manufacturing lost 168,000 jobs last month — While a significant decline, it’s a milder drop than 219,000 average drop during the prior two months. While the manufacturing sector accounted for about 10 percent of the workforce at the start of the recession, it has accounted for about 30 percent of the job losses since the recession began. All told, manufacturing employment has declined 1.3 million to a level of 12.5 million workers.
The makeup of the manufacturing jobs lost in February gives a picture of how the first quarter GDP is shaping up. Most (about 80 percent) of the manufacturing jobs lost last month were in durable industries, such as wood products, machinery, furniture, and computer and electronic products. This signals that consumer demand for durable products, business investment, housing and exports, all of which are key demand components for durable goods products, is continuing to contract. Unfortunately, all these figures point to another negative quarter, one that’s both diffuse and deep.