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Published: Wednesday, 4/29/2009

Jobless rates rise in all U.S. metro areas in March

ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON Unemployment rates rose in all of the nation s largest metropolitan areas for the third straight month in March, with Indiana s Elkhart-Goshen once again logging the biggest gain.

The Labor Department reported Wednesday all 372 metropolitan areas tracked saw jobless rates move higher last month from a year earlier. Elkhart-Goshen s rate soared to 18.8 percent, a 13 percentage-point increase. That was the fourth-highest jobless rate in the country.

The Indiana region has been hammered by layoffs in the recreational vehicle industry. RV makers Monaco Coach Corp. Keystone RV Co. and Pilgrim International have sliced hundreds of jobs.

The jobless rate jumped to 17 percent in Bend, Ore., a 9.2 percentage-point rise and the second-biggest monthly gainer. Rounding out the top three was North Carolina s Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, which saw its unemployment rate rise to 15.4 percent last month, an increase of 9.1 percentage points.

The regions highlight damage inflicted by the recession. Fallout has been especially pronounced in the manufacturing, construction and retail industries, which have suffered heavy layoffs.

El-Centro, Calif., continued to lay claim to the highest unemployment rate 25.1 percent. The jobless rate there is notoriously high because there are so many unemployed seasonal agriculture workers.

Following close behind were Merced, Calif., with a jobless rate of 20.4 percent, and Yuba, Calif., at 19.5 percent.

The national unemployment rate soared to 8.5 percent, a quarter-century high, in March.

Companies have seen their sales and profits hurt by the recession. They have been laying off workers and taking other cost-cutting steps to survive the downturn, which began in December 2007.

Many economists believe employers will stay in cost-cutting mode even if the recession ends this year, as some hope. The nationwide unemployment rate could top 10 percent early next year before it starts to slowly drift downward. Companies won t feel inclined to boost hiring until they are confident any economic recovery has staying power.

More layoffs were announced this week. Textron Inc. said it will expand layoffs, eliminating 8,300 jobs, or 20 percent, of its global work force as the recession weakens demand for corporate planes. The maker of Cessna planes, Bell helicopters and turf-maintenance equipment earlier this year said it would reduce its work force by 6,200 jobs, or 15 percent, mostly at Wichita, Kansas-based Cessna.

Elsewhere, General Motors Corp. laid out a massive restructuring plan that includes cutting 21,000 U.S. factory jobs by next year. Clear Channel Communications Inc., the largest owner of U.S. radio stations, said it s cutting 590 jobs in its second round of mass layoffs this year. And bearings and specialty steels maker Timken Co. indicated it will cut about 4,000 more jobs by the end of this year after earlier suggesting about 3,000 jobs already had been targeted

In Wednesday s metro unemployment report, the government said 18 regions registered jobless rates of at least 15 percent. Meanwhile, 15 regions had rates below 5 percent. They include: Ames, Iowa; Houma-Bayou-Cane-Thibodaux, La.; Iowa, City, Iowa; Manhattan, Kansas; and Lubbock, Texas.

Both Ames, home of Iowa State University, and Houma-Bayou-Cane-Thibodaux had the lowest unemployment rates at 3.6 percent each. The Louisiana region, with about 200,000 residents, is located on the coast and serves as a vital support area for the offshore petroleum industry in the Gulf of Mexico. Because of deepwater drilling in the Gulf, where projects take years to complete and bring to production, there has been little short-term effect from low energy prices.



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