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About 8,700 industrial workers, or 2.4% of the industrial workforce, lost their jobs in the first three months of 2009.

The Manufacturers Association released these figures yesterday, based on its monthly analysis of the sector.

This is industry's steepest job loss in 18 years.

The largest groups of workers let go worked in the metal and electrical sector, 1,718, and in plastic and rubber, 1,006. Howver, the cuts were across the board, and the electronics, clothing and textile sectors were also hit hard.

Industrial production dropped 3.5% in the first quarter compared to the last quarter of 2008.

Much of the fall, 42%, was in the mixed and traditional technology sectors. This translates into a 6.2% drop in production for those businesses in real terms.

All technology-based industry suffered during the quarter, including high-tech, even though it showed only a 1.2% drop in production.