RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

NPR's business news starts with a sharp drop in employment.

The U.S. economy lost 80,000 jobs last month. That's according to the Labor Department's closely watched jobs report, which is out today. The numbers are worse than many economists expected, and they add to fears of recession. It's the worst monthly job loss in five years. The unemployment rate is now just over 5 percent. NPR's Chris Arnold has more.

CHRIS ARNOLD: The jobs report is one of the key indicators of where the economy is headed, and it looks like a lot of businesses are pulling back and delaying hiring or laying people off. The previous numbers were revised upwards, so over the past three months the U.S. has lost a total of 232,000 jobs.

Mr. NARIMAN BEHRAVESH (Global Insight): This is a bad number. There's no way to sugarcoat this bitter pill.

ARNOLD: Nariman Behravesh is chief economist at Global Insight. He says the ongoing trouble in the housing market is continuing to hurt people who build homes or who make the refrigerators, air conditioners, windows and doors that go into them.

Mr. BEHRAVESH: There's a lot of pain in manufacturing, there's a lot of pain in the construction. Looks like there's a little bit of life in services, up 13,000. But that's nowhere near enough to compensate for the losses elsewhere in the economy. So we're in a recession. I think the only question now is, is how deep.

ARNOLD: So far Behravesh is predicting a mild recession; in part he says that's because of continued demand from other countries for U.S.-made products. This week Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke pointed to that as a bright spot. Behravesh says that's because the weaker dollar is making U.S. products cheaper overseas, and some industries in particular are benefiting from that.

Mr. BEHRAVESH: Semi-conductors is one where they're doing very well. Aircraft is another. They're doing well because of a weak dollar. So I think a weak dollar is making the difference between - or will make the difference between a mild recession and a deeper recession.

ARNOLD: Analysts say the worse-than-expected jobs report could make it more likely that the Federal Reserve will continue trying to stimulate the economy by cutting interest rates.

Chris Arnold, NPR News.

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