U.S. Unemployment Hits 7.2%

Manufacturing lost 149,999

The U.S. economy lost a massive 524,000 jobs in December, sending the unemployment rate to a 16-year high of 7.2%, the Labor Department said on Jan. 9.

The recession-ravaged economy shed 2.6 million jobs over the course of 2008, the most since 1945, the Labor Department said. Of those, 1.9 million were lost in the past four months.

The jobless rate, which is calculated on a separate household survey, climbed to 7.2% from 6.8% a month earlier, hitting the highest level since January 1993.

The number of unemployed rose to 11.1 million in December, the data showed.

In December, a large portion of the losses came in manufacturing, which shed 149,000 in the month and 791,000 in the year, with the auto sector hard hit.

But the service sector, which accounts for some 80% of employment, fared even worse, with 273,000 jobs lost in the month. Construction jobs fell by 101,000 in December, and has fallen by 899,000 since peaking in September 2006. The retail sector shed 67,000 jobs in December and 522,000 for all of 2008. More than half of the losses in 2008 occurred in the last four months of the year.

Another indicator of the labor situation, the average workweek, fell by 0.2 hour to 33.3 hours, the lowest level since recording of the data began in 1964.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009

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