Most sectors hit: Losses in past 3 months akin to shutdown at end of World War II, feds say.
The U.S. economy bled 651,000 jobs last month, capping the worst three months of job loss since military production shut down at the end of World War II, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday.
With losses across nearly every sector, the official unemployment rate shot to 8.1 percent, its highest level since 1983.
Georgia, facing even higher unemployment, will be adding $25 to unemployment checks, which average $292 a week, said Michael Thurmond, labor commissioner.
The state will distribute that money, which comes from the federal stimulus package, to roughly 180,000 people receiving benefits. More than 200,000 other jobless Georgians have exhausted benefits or are not eligible.
For instance, electrician Jerome Jackson, 53, of Atlanta can’t get the unemployment checks because he has been furloughed without pay —- not laid off.
The number of jobless electricians has more than tripled in the past year, said Gene O’Kelly, business manager for Local 613 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. “And we expect to see it get worse.”
But the job market has been pounding on white-collar employees as well: The unemployment rate for workers with less than a high school diploma is 12.6 percent, a 70 percent jump in the past year. College graduates still have a much lower jobless rate —- 4.1 percent —- but that level is nearly double what it was a year ago.
However, that modest aid will not help everyone with job woes.
Even among the officially jobless, more than half are not receiving the benefits. Many ran through benefits and could still not find a job —- nearly one-in-four of the jobless go at least six months. Others were self-employed, so they had no employer paying into the system. Some were ineligible because they quit jobs or were fired for cause —- and many more employers have been appealing the eligibility of their former workers.
Friday’s jobs report showed losses in a range of sectors from manufacturing and grocers to architects’ firms and legal services.
Georgia’s jobless rate hit 8.6 percent in January and has been higher than the national average for more than a year.
Most economists have predicted that unemployment will top out at about 9 percent. That estimate could start to seem optimistic, warned Edmund Hyland, Atlanta-based global investment specialist for JP Morgan Private Bank.
“If you have six months more like this, you may be looking at double-digit unemployment rates,” he said.
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