April 23, 2009 / 2:59 PM / 10 years ago

U.S. mass layoffs rise to highest on record

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Large-scale U.S. layoffs rose again in March, according to Labor Department data on Thursday, as the economy struggles with what many expect will be the country’s worst post-World War II recession.

Last month witnessed 2,933 more mass layoffs, defined as affecting 50 or more workers, than February. This brought the total number of people who lost their jobs in this manner to 299,388, the highest on a record that dates back to 1995.

The U.S. job market has been under severe strain as a crisis first evident in housing spread to the rest of the economy, severely curtailing corporate profits and consumer spending.

Ongoing pain was evident across sectors, with the Labor Department also reporting another record for blanket layoffs within manufacturing.

Mass layoffs now total 31,414 since the start of the recession in December 2007, resulting in the loss of more than 3.2 million jobs. The monthly mass layoff numbers are compiled from establishments with at least 50 initial claims for unemployment insurance filed against them during a five-week period.

Separate data out on Thursday showed the number of continuing unemployment claims climbing to a new record of 6.14 million. Weekly initial jobless claims also rose again, to 640,000.

“Over the past year, the deterioration in initial claims, continuing claims, and the insured jobless rate has been just as bad as they were during the 1981-1982 recession, which has been the most severe in the post-World War II period,” said Steven Wood, chief economist at Insight Economics.

Editing by Padraic Cassidy

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