April 4th, 2008
01:58 PM GMT
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More signs of weakness in the U.S. economy. Jobs fell by a worse-than-expected 80,000 in March. The third month in a row that payrolls have shrunk.

But it's not surprising, given that we're in economic downturn. Add to that a strike by one of General Motors' suppliers. It's meant no work for almost half of GM's North American workforce.

The continued fallout from the subprime crisis also means fewer jobs. And the housing crunch means fewer new homes are being built. Add it all, including consumers retrenching, and it's easy to see why there's less demand for workers.

You have to go back to to start of the Iraq war in 2003 to find another period when there were three consecutive months of declining employment.

Initial claims for jobless benefits are now at their highest level since the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in September of 2005. The unemployment rate, now at 5.1 percent, is expected to rise further.

"With layoffs rising quite quickly, and hiring intentions very depressed, we think the unemployment rate is set to reach 6% or so by the end of the this year," according to Ian Shepherdson, the highly respected U.S. economist.

He goes on to predict: "It will continue to rise, though hopefully at a slower rate, through 2009 if we are right in our view that the consumer retrenchment will last much longer than most forecasters expect."

Not comforting words. As I've said many times before, we didn't get into this mess overnight, and it's not going away anytime soon.

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