Deep Losses Expected in March Jobs Report

The economy lost more than 80,000 jobs in the first two months of this year. Economic forecasters are predicting that hiring will be flat in March.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Now, Motorola's latest round of layoffs will not figure into today's unemployment report. It's too recent. But economists still expect to see more jobs lost when the government releases its latest numbers this morning. Here's NPR's Frank Langfitt.

FRANK LANGFITT: Economists predict the economy lost as many as 60,000 jobs last month. They say the problems that began with housing and subprime mortgages are spreading to the broader job market.

John Silva is chief economist at Wachovia. He says businesses of all kinds are becoming more cautious about staffing.

Mr. JOHN SILVA (Chief Economist, Wachovia): So what's happened is -especially in the service sector - hiring has really dried up, but we've not laid off a lot of people. Most of the layoffs really are focused in the construction industry and then modestly in the manufacturing industry.

LANGFITT: Lawrence Katz is a labor economist at Harvard. He says normally solid sectors, like retail trade and hospitality are showing weakness. And that's leaving fewer areas to drive job growth.

Professor LAWRENCE KATZ (Labor economist, Harvard): So basically the only sectors that haven't taken a hit yet seem to be professional business services and basically health.

LANGFITT: While the recent job losses are worrisome, they're not yet as deep as some past recessions. During one stretch, between 1990 and 1991, the nation lost an average of more than 200,000 jobs a month.

Frank Langfitt, NPR News, Washington.

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