Unemployment Rate Rises to 8.1%

Non-farm payroll employment contracted by 651,000 in February, effectively pushing unemployment to 8.1 percent from 7.6 percent he previous month, according to data released Friday by the U.S. Department of Labor. The economy has shed a total 2.6 million paid, non-farm jobs in the past four months alone, according to the payroll data. The employed sector of the population shrank by about 5 million during the past 12 months, while the unemployment rate has risen by 3.3 percentage points. The unemployment rate for adult men rose to 8.1 percent, while the rate for women came in at 6.7 percent. The white population experienced 7.3 percent unemployment, while blacks saw 13.4 percent, Hispanics reported 10.9 percent and Asians experienced only 6.9 percent. The percentage of unemployed teenagers remained high, with 21.6 percent unemployment in February, according to the data. The population with the largest increase in its unemployment rate since January was that of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, which posted a 1.2 percentage point increase. The population with the smallest increase was white workers, who experienced only a 0.4 percentage point incline. The sharp inclines in joblessness have sparked a number of relief efforts. Citigroup Inc. (C) was the recent and perhaps the largest player to come out in support this week for recently unemployed borrowers. Beginning March 3, CitiMortgage customers meeting certain criteria who have recently lost their jobs are eligible to participate in the new assistance program, the company said in a press statement Tuesday morning. The bank will actually drop the required monthly payments for the “majority of qualifying customers”  to an average of $500 for three months — $500 is below the cost of the nationwide average rent for a one-bedroom residence. “Unemployment is a major concern facing the American economy right now, and it especially worries mortgage holders,” said Sanjiv Das, CEO of CitiMortgage. “Our Homeowner Unemployment Assist program is intended to serve as a bridge toward a longer-term solution, helping homeowners stay in their homes and in their communities while they get their feet back on the ground.” Another 787,000 people were forced to work part-time “for economic reasons” — meaning their hours were cut or they were unable to find full-time positions — in the month. The professional and business services sectors shed 180,000 positions in February, while manufacturing posted a 168,000 paid position decline. Employment in financial activities slipped by 44,000 jobs in February. Only health care — often seen as recession-proof — bucked the trend, continuing to add jobs in the month. Hospitals nationwide hired 7,000 workers, while 16,000 people found work in ambulatory health care in the month. Read the February report. Write to Diana Golobay at

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