Unemployment Rate Jumps to 8.5 Percent in March

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 663,000 jobs were cut in March.

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Less than a day after President Barack Obama secured an agreement with the G-20 leaders that he hopes will reverse the worldwide recession, more bad economic news came for the United States: The unemployment rate rose to 8.5 percent in March, from 8.1 percent in February.

The unemployment rate is now the highest that it has been since late 1983, according to the report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics this morning. With 663,000 jobs cut in March, the 15th consecutive month to see jobs shed, the total number of jobs lost during the recession has reached 5.1 million.

The numbers would have been even worse if part-time and discouraged workers had been included, but they are not part of official unemployment rates. If those groups had been factored in, the unemployment rate in March would have been 15.6 percent—the highest since record keeping began in 1994. Discouraged workers are those who want work but have not looked for a job in the past four weeks, believing no jobs are available to them.

The news comes on the heels of a few encouraging economic signs seen over the past two weeks. Orders placed with American factories rose in February after a six-month decline, and consumer spending increased in February for the second consecutive month. Meanwhile, the G-20 leaders came to an agreement this week to both regulate the global financial system and infuse $1.1 trillion into the economy, a better-than-expected result after a number of differences had threatened to fracture talks before they began.

But even with some cause for optimism, analysts say, the country will not emerge from recession as long as jobs continue to be lost at such a fast rate.