SCOTT SIMON, host:
We're going to talk about some of the political implications from all this in a moment. But first, the Dow Industrials and S& P 500 are down an astonishing 25 percent since the start of the year. Here's a report from NPR's John Ydstie on the continued deterioration on the economy this week, and the administration's attempts to fix it.
JOHN YDSTIE: Deborah Lansdowne(ph) is one of the 651,000 Americans who lost their jobs in February. Until last week, she was a janitor at a life sciences company in Maryland.
Ms. DEBORAH LANSDOWNE: Clean bathrooms, floors; take care of the kitchen, the conference room.
YDSTIE: On Thursday, Lansdowne, who's 50 years old, went to a state employment office at a shopping mall just outside Washington, D.C., to look for work. She says she's ready to take just about anything.
Ms. LANSDOWNE: I would look for part time. I'm thinking of taking, of course, lower pay. I've tried McDonald's. I'm going to try some retail stores -just something to get some money coming in.
YDSTIE: If Lansdowne got a part-time job, she'd join the ranks of a fast growing part of the labor force: people who want full-time jobs but are settling for less.
Mr. JOHN SILVIA (Chief Economist, Wachovia Economics Group): They're counted as employed but clearly, you might want to say they're clearly underemployed.
YDSTIE: That's John Silvia, chief economist at Wachovia Economics Group. He says the number of underemployed Americans has nearly doubled in the last year, to 8 and a half million workers. But their struggles aren't captured by the unemployment rate, which reached 8.1 percent in February.
Yesterday, President Barack Obama traveled to Columbus, Ohio to highlight how his administration is trying to staunch the hemorrhage of jobs. He spoke at graduation ceremonies for police recruits who were set to lose their jobs until the stimulus package provided Ohio with money to keep them employed.
President BARACK OBAMA: These jobs, and the jobs of so many other police officers and teachers and firefighters all across Ohio, will now be saved because of this recovery plan.
Mr. ALAN BLINDER (Economist, Princeton, Former Federal Reserve Governor): It's not a misleading example.
YDSTIE: That's Princeton economist and former Federal Reserve Governor Alan Blinder.
Mr. BLINDER: So, that was certainly one of the purposes of the design of the stimulus. But that's on the very fast-acting extreme, and a lot of it will come much more gradually than that.
YDSTIE: It'll take longer for other sectors targeted by the stimulus to create employment. So, Blinder says, most economists think monthly job losses will continue into next year. But what will stop the stock market swan dive? Wachovia's John Silvia argues investors won't start buying, despite bargain-basement prices, until there are more details on the massive changes President Obama has called for in areas from health-care to energy.
Mr. SILVIA: As soon as you tell people, we're going to change something, but you don't have the details, oftentimes people will freeze, they'll stop, they won't do anything.
YDSTIE: Because there's no way to determine which investment makes sense. Alan Blinder isn't convinced. He says it's still all about the banks. Until they're stabilized, he says, the markets won't rebound.
John Ydstie, NPR News, Washington.