US chemical, plastics job losses among 600,000 in January

06 February 2009 16:09  [Source: ICIS news]

US job seekers in Charlotte, North CarolinaWASHINGTON (ICIS news)--Nearly 600,000 US workers lost their jobs in January, the Labor Department said on Friday, sending unemployment to 7.6% with 11.6m American workers jobless, including many in the plastics and chemicals industries.

The department said that a total of 598,000 jobs were lost in January, kicking the unemployment rate to 7.6% from the 7.2% rate seen in December’s numbers.

US payroll employment has fallen by 3.6m positions since the start of the recession in December 2007, the department said, with about half of those job losses coming in the last three months.

The department said that job losses in January were large and widespread across nearly all major industries, but construction and manufacturing were particularly hard-hit among non-farm payroll sectors.

In construction, which has been in decline due to the nation’s long-running housing crisis, unemployment was at 18.2% in January, the department said, up sharply from the 11% rate seen in that industry in January 2008.

Job losses in manufacturing have accelerated, with unemployment in that broad sector at 10.9% in January compared with 5.1% in January a year ago.

The rate of job losses in manufacturing is even more severe than in construction, according to the department’s figures. From January 2008 to January 2009, layoffs in the construction sector increased by 65% while job cuts in manufacturing increased by nearly 114%.

In the US plastics and rubber products industry, January saw job losses of 14,500 compared with December 2008, the department said.

In January 2008 the plastics industry employed 750,000 workers, but that figure has fallen to slightly more than 680,000 jobs in January this year, a decline of 9.3%.

In chemicals, 2,400 jobs were lost in January, leaving the industry’s workforce at 835,300, down 2.5% from the January 2008 figure of 857,200 workers.

Christina Romer, chairwoman of the White House Council on Economic Advisers, noted on Friday that the 3.6m jobs lost since the start of the recession in December 2007 constitute “the largest 13-month job loss since payroll employment records began in 1939”.

She said January’s job losses are “the latest evidence that the US economy is contracting greatly”.

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By: Joe Kamalick
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