March Losses Could Make History

Economists surveyed by MarketWatch predict the employment report to be released by the government on Friday will show the largest monthly job loss to hit the country in 60 years. The grim forecast sees the economy shedding 688,000 jobs in March, a number not matched in size since October 1949, when a national steelworkers strike cut payrolls by 834,000. It would be the first time since recordkeeping began in 1939 that payrolls declined by more than 0.4% for five months in row. Even if the U.S. economy begins growing again in the June quarter, as some economists predict, unemployment could continue to rise for many months thereafter. "The U.S. labor market continues to melt down as companies scramble to adjust their head counts in the face of a deepening economic slump that is among the most serious downturns in the postwar period," wrote Meny Grauman, an economist for CIBC World Markets.