The U.S. Labor Department announced Friday that 108,000 jobs were cut from the nation’s payroll last month, but the U.S. unemployment rate stood unchanged at 5.8 percent as many frustrated former job seekers are no longer looking for work.

The data indicates that the job market has its bleakest outlook since World War II, as March was the 21st month in a row that more jobs have been cut than created.

Although the economy still managed to grow by a bit last year, the labor market has produced no great news in recent months. The fresh report is adding worries to the slow-growing economy and experts have started to question whether the growth will continue.

Business School Prof. Nejat Seyhun said the Federal Reserve might consider cutting interest rates again in May to stimulate investment and spending if the situation has not improved by then.

“The economy is growing by a little but the unemployment rate is rising,” Seyhun said. “That means they’re getting more outputs with less inputs. But it certainly is not good news to people who are looking for jobs.”

Seyhun said although the economy is more efficient than before, job creation is crucial to economic growth as income fuels consumer spending.

Job cuts took place in various sectors, which include retail, service industries and government sectors. Economists are not expecting a rebound to take place soon because war-generated uncertainties keep businesses from spending, and it seems more jobs will be cut – especially in the airline industry, troubled by war and the outbreak of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome in Asia.

The airline industry was first hit by the Sept. 11 attacks, which made people more hesitant to fly due to possible terrorist hijacking. It is now further dampened by the war in Iraq, as it forces many uncertain travelers to either postpone or cancel their trips.

“There has certainly been a drop off in booking to Europe, and areas obviously that are in the region where the conflict is currently taking place,” STA Travel manager Charlie Corbin said.

All these negative factors have already forced several airlines to lay off thousands of employees in recent years.

Last week, the World Health Organization asked travelers to cancel trips to many cities in Asia where the deadly communicable SARS disease that has killed more than 70 people was originally found. The outbreak of the lethal flu scared people from air travel, and several carriers such as British Airways and Singapore Airlines have canceled flights to Hong Kong – where more than 700 people have been infected with the disease. These precautions will further reduce profits for an already sluggish airline industry, and may spark off a new wave of layoffs.

Corbin said current ticket sales are 10 to 15 percent below expectations and he expects the decline in booking to persist if the war continues and the SARS outbreak worsens.

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