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Jobless Figures Add to US Economic Gloom


The U.S. economic gloom deepened Friday with word that the jobless rate soared to 8.1 percent last month, the highest level in 25 years.

There is no way to sugarcoat it - the latest jobs report is bad news for a country struggling to find a way out of a deepening recession.

On a personal level, it's a blow for this South Carolina man looking for work.

"It's tough. It's tough for everybody," he said.

Even for those with jobs, like one Seattle newspaper reporter, benefits are being cut.

"Pay cut, less medical benefits, loss of my vacation and loss of my severance package when I get laid off here," he said.

And college students, like this woman from California, are bracing for a very difficult job market after graduation.

"I want to get out, I want to get into the work force and start my life. But there is really no market right now, so what else can you do but go to graduate school," she said.

Economist Stuart Hoffman said a turnaround in the job market is not likely anytime soon.

"The first thing to do is to stop the bleeding. These numbers unfortunately tell us that the U.S. economy is still bleeding jobs. It suggests that at least over the spring and into the summer months, the job market is going to be a very tough place for people to hold onto their jobs, and if you've lost it, not easy to find a new one," he said.

University of Maryland economist Peter Morici said the latest jobs picture combined with other dismal indicators shows just how weak the economy is.

"We've had a constant drumbeat of bad news-durable goods orders, factory orders, auto sales at really depression levels. The economy really is quite sick," he said.

The economy obviously remains the number one priority for President Barack Obama.

Mr. Obama told an audience in Ohio Friday that the job losses underscore the importance of his economic stimulus package, which he signed into law last month.

But the president also urged the country to remain patient as experts and average citizens alike wait for signs of recovery.

"All of this takes time and it will take patience. It will entail great effort and cooperation, but most of all it will require a new sense of responsibility from every American, a responsibility to ourselves and one another," said the president.

Obama supporter Patricia Irwin of Maryland is willing to give the president time - for now.

"There is no guarantee that it is going to be turned around in a year, and I'm not going to blame the Obama administration for that. This is, I think, an unprecedented financial crisis. It is worldwide, so people should not expect that the situation in the U.S. is suddenly going to get so much better," she said.

Republicans have kept up their drumbeat of opposition to the president's economic policies, charging Mr. Obama relies too heavily on government spending and tax increases for corporations and the wealthy.

But recent public opinion polls show a majority of Americans approve of the president's job performance and generally support his plans to increase government spending to boost the economy.

Experts also noted that, at least for the moment, most Americans seem willing to give the new president time for his policies to take effect.

"Obama talks with a lot of confidence and confidence is what people need at the moment. And so, his talk of hope and some signs of hopeful recovery will be sufficient to keep public support," said Stephen Wayne, professor of government at Georgetown University in Washington.

What's needed now, of course, are some of those hopeful signs, and experts say, the sooner the better.

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