Swelling unemployment is spurring new complaints from organized labor that the Carter administration, in its war on inflation, is callous to the impact of job losses on American families.
Lane Kirkland, president of the AFL-CIO, officially expressed "deep distress" over White House policies that would impose new hardships on workers by permitting unemployment to rise. Further increases, possibly to 8 percent or more, are predicted by organized labor's economists. Other economists generally agree that the rate of joblessness will go up.
The national unemployment rate rose in March to 6.2 percent of the work force , which means that an estimated 6.4 million were jobless. The increase largely was the result of spreading layoffs. Most of those newly out of work were adult men for whom employment had been fairly stable before; these workers usually are the last to be affected by layoffs.
Janet L. Norwood, the US Commissioner of Labor Statistics, said the "deterioration of employment" during the first three months of this year largely is due to a construction slodown, but that it also reflects layoffs in auto, rubber and other industries.
Richard W. Rahn, chief economist of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States, said bluntly in Washington, "It is clear that we are rapidly going into a recession." Other business-related economists echoed this view, many describing the rise in unemployment and drop in employment as "the clearest signals we have had yet from the labor market about a recession."
The President's anti-inflation budget and present tight money policies gaurantee the recession, these economists say. Spokesmen from organized labor call the policies "social callousness." John T. Joyce, president of the International prospects "frighteningly gloomy now." Building trades workers already are 11.4 percent unemployed.
While 4.9 percent of adult males in the labor force were unemployed, the jobless rate for women was relatively steady at 5.7 percent The stability is important: Women contribute more than one-fourth of family incomes and more than one of every eight families now is headed by a woman.
Dr. Norwood noted in a study of the social aspects of unemployment in 1976 that regardless of unemployment aid, "the psychological and social effects [of joblessness] can be very great and the drain on financial reserves can be very serious." Many social scientists have charted increases in crime when unemployment rises.
AFL-CIO's Mr. Kirkland says labor is "deeply distressed" that the White House has "so quickly and crudely scuttled and sacrificed" the jobs of workers "to expediency, politics, and the demands of the financial community," a criticism that has sharp political overtones in a presidential election year.