US payrolls drop for second straight month


US employers cut payrolls for a second straight month during February, slashing 63,000 jobs for the biggest monthly job decline in nearly five years as the labor market weakened steadily, a government report on Friday showed.

The Labour Department said last month's cut in jobs followed an upwardly revised loss of 22,000 jobs in January instead of 17,000 reported a month ago. In addition, it said that only 41,000 jobs were created in December, half the 82,000 originally reported.

The back-to-back January and February job losses were the first consecutive monthly declines since May and June of 2003.

The February jobs report was more bleak than expected. Economists surveyed by Reuters forecast 25,000 jobs would be added to payrolls last month. They had forecast that the unemployment rate would edge up to five per cent.

During February, the national unemployment rate eased to 4.8 per cent from 4.9 per cent in January, but that was because fewer people were in the labour force. The department said the number of people in the workforce fell by 450,000 in February.

Job losses were widespread. Some 52,000 jobs were lost in the manufacturing industries, the largest decline since July 2003 when 92,000 jobs were cut. Construction businesses eliminated another 39,000 jobs on top of 25,000 that were cut in January, a reflection of the housing industry's deepening woes.

The department said that since the housing boom peaked in September 2006, construction businesses have cut 331,000 jobs.

One bright spot was that the government added 38,000 jobs in February on top of 4,000 new-hires in January. (Reuters)

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