Every tax is a pay cut.  Every tax cut is a pay raise.
Citizens for Limited Taxation

Jobless rate jumps to 6 percent Saturday, May 3, 2003
Leigh Strope / Associated Press Metrowest Daily News
WASHINGTON -- The nation's unemployment rate swelled to 6 percent in April, returning to an eight-year high as employers slashed payrolls even deeper.  The ailing economy has lost a half million jobs in the past three months.

The rate was up two-tenths of a percentage point from March, with payrolls falling by 48,000, the Labor Department reported yesterday.

The bottom line:  Employers are handing out pink slips, not job offers, and that's not likely to change soon.

"For those who are out of work, finding a job is getting tougher," said David Rosenberg, chief economist at Merrill Lynch.

April's job losses were the third in a row, which never occurs outside of recessions, he said, adding that "we now have such a case."  Job cuts were concentrated in manufacturing, airlines and retail.

A separate report based on the previous month was more positive for the nation's factories.  Orders rose 2.2 percent in March, an improvement over the 1.0 percent decline registered in February and the largest gain in eight months, the Commerce Department said.

In April, the number of unemployed workers surged to 8.8 million, with almost 2 million without jobs for 27 weeks or more.  The average duration of unemployment shot up to 19.6 weeks -- a 20-year high.

"There's just no denying that these are an awful set of job figures for April," said Ken Mayland, president of ClearView Economics in Cleveland.

The unemployment rate last hit 6 percent in December, but it has hovered just below that mark for more than a year.  The last time it was higher was in July 1994, when it reached 6.1 percent as the country was emerging from the previous recession.

Now that the Iraq war is over, modest hiring could resume, Mayland said.  Some recent positive economic signs include lower gasoline prices, an improved stock market and elevated consumer confidence.

The report underscores the challenges facing President Bush as he turns his attention to domestic matters and a re-election campaign.

Democrats say Bush, like his father, is politically vulnerable on the economy.  Some criticized his prime time speech Thursday night from the USS Abraham Lincoln, saying he should spend more energy on getting Americans back to work.

"As thrilling as it was for our troops on the Lincoln to see President Bush land on deck to welcome them home, millions of Americans back on dry land are wondering how they can land a job," said Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass.  He said the patience of jobless workers is being worn thin by Bush's "flights from reality."

Bush wants Congress to pass at least $550 billion in tax cuts, including eliminating taxes on corporate dividends, as a way to jump start the economy.

Even if it passes, unemployment could continue to climb through the summer because any improvements in the economy would take time to trickle down into hiring.

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