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US March payrolls seen down 650,000

The United States jobless rate is forecast at 8.5 per cent,up from 8.1 per cent in February.

Written by Reuters | Chicago | Published: April 3, 2009 4:42:13 pm

The struggling US economy probably continued to bleed jobs at a rapid rate in March,continuing to drive up the jobless rate at a startling pace.

Forecasters polled by Reuters expect nonfarm payrolls to register a decline of 650,000 for March,similar to the 651,000 shed in February. The 78 estimates ranged from down 522,000 to down 750,000 jobs.

The jobless rate is forecast at 8.5 per cent,up from 8.1 per cent in February,when the rate unexpectedly surged from 7.6 per cent.

“Layoffs continue at a record pace,although they are no longer accelerating,” said Chris Low,chief economist at FTN Financial in New York.

“Many industries,from technology and electronics to airlines and retail,remain under pressure to rein in expenses and limit overhead.”

Economists have started to see some “green shoots” in the US economy after a long,bleak few months,but the labor market,a lagging indicator,is likely to be one of the last places where an improvement is seen.

“Companies will need to see stronger evidence of a sustained slowing in the rate of contraction in demand before the drop in payrolls will slow,” said Ian Shepherdson,chief US economist at High Frequency Economics in Valhalla,New York.

The unemployment rate has been climbing faster than in any recession since 1980,and has already surpassed the peaks of the 2001 and 1990 downturns. An 8.5-per cent rate would match the level last seen in November 1983.

Federal Reserve officials have suggested that the jobless rate will keep climbing into 2010 even if at least a mild recovery catches hold in the second half of 2009.

On Wednesday,a report from ADP Employer Services showed that US private-sector employers slashed 742,000 jobs in March,a record since the survey was started in 2001 and up from a revised decline of 706,000 in February.

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