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This Week, Unemployment Rate Jumps To 8.1%

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Gee, remember the old days when companies would announce massive layoffs and Wall Street would cheer? Good times!

And of course, depending on who you ask, the real unemployment rate may be double the number we're told:

WASHINGTON - The nation's jobless rate jumped to 8.1 percent in Feb., the highest since late 1983 and payrolls dropped by 651,000 jobs, the Labor Department reported on Friday.

Cost-cutting employers resorted to even bigger layoffs as they scrambled to survive the recession, feeding insecurities among those who still have jobs and those who desperately want them.

The net loss of jobs in February came after even deeper payroll reductions in the prior two months, according to revised figures. The economy lost 681,000 jobs in December and another 655,000 in January.

Employers are shrinking their work forces at alarming clip and are turning to other ways to slash costs — including trimming workers' hours, freezing wages or cutting pay — because the recession has eaten into their sales and profits. Customers at home and abroad are cutting back as other countries cope with their own economic problems.

[...] "This is basically cleaning house for a lot of firms," said John Silvia, chief economist at Wachovia. "They are using the first quarter to cut back employment and figure out what they want."

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