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Economy Sheds 663,000 Jobs in March; Manufacturing Takes Heavy Hit

The U.S. economy lost 663,000 jobs in March, bringing the national unemployment rate to 8.5 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The March numbers bring the total number of jobs lost to 5.1 million since the recession officially began in December 2007, with more than 2 million of those shed in the first quarter of this year. Manufacturing lost 161,000 jobs in March, bringing the total recession losses in the sector to 1.5 million, with factory employment down 1 million in the past six months. Within manufacturing, fabricated metal products lost 28,000 jobs; machinery, 27,000; and transportation equipment, 26,000. In other categories, business and professional services lost 133,000 jobs, with more than half of those losses in temporary services; construction was down 126,000; retail trade, 48,000; and financial services, 43,000. As in past months, only healthcare and education saw job gains. In addition to the job losses, the average workweek fell to 33.2 hours, the lowest level since the department began keeping records in 1964.

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