The United States spiraled deeper into recession to start 2009, forcing widespread cutbacks and layoffs among everyone from blue-collar workers that once churned out construction equipment to white-collar professionals like business consultants and accountants.
The Federal Reserve's new snapshot of business activity nationwide, released Wednesday, showed the economic picture darkening over the last two months and revealed little hope for a quick turnaround.
"National economic conditions deteriorated further," the Fed's survey concluded. "The deterioration was broadbased, with only a few sectors such as basic food production and pharmaceuticals appearing to be exceptions."
Looking ahead, business people rated the prospects "for near-term improvement in economic conditions as poor, with a significant pickup not expected before late 2009 or early 2010."