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Jobless Rate Climbed to 8.5 Percent in March

The latest report from the Labor Department showed the unemployment rate climbed to 8.5 percent in March. Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, offers insight on the numbers.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The American work force took another big hit last month, as unemployment surged to the highest level since 1983. The Labor Department reported the March rate rose 0.4 point to 8.5 percent. Employers cut 663,000 jobs, with the losses coming in virtually every sector. That makes more than 5 million jobs lost since the recession started in December of 2007.

    The head of the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, Keith Hall, acknowledged today that it's hard to find a silver lining. He was questioned at a congressional hearing.

  • REP. CAROLYN MALONEY, D-N.Y.:

    Do you have any good news? Are there any positive economic indicators? Are there any bright spots in this month's job report?

    KEITH HALL, commissioner, Bureau of Labor Statistics: There are very few bright spots in this month's job report.

  • REP. CAROLYN MALONEY:

    Are there any, anywhere?

  • KEITH HALL:

    To be honest, no. And, in fact, the decline has been remarkably consistent. This month, we lost 663,000 jobs. Over the past five months, we've averaged losing 667,000 jobs.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    President Obama addressed the jobs numbers as he traveled in Europe. He said they are a stark reminder of the nation's economic woes.

    Wall Street took the report in stride. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 39 points to close at 8,017. The Nasdaq rose 19 points to close above 1,621. For the week, the Dow gained 3 percent; the Nasdaq rose 5 percent.

    And more now about the unemployment picture and the economy with Jeffrey Brown.

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