Workforce.com

Unemployment Rate Soars to 7.2 Percent

Employers shed a half-million jobs last month. The manufacturing, construction and staffing industries are hit hardest.

January 9, 2009
The nation’s employers shed more than a half-million jobs from their payrolls last month as the unemployment rate surged to a 16-year high of 7.2 percent.

Labor statistics showed payrolls declined by 524,000 people in December, totaling 1.9 million over the last four months of 2008.

December saw widespread job losses across industries. Industries hit the hardest included manufacturing, construction and employment services, according to numbers released Friday, January 9, by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Bucking the trend was health care, which added by 32,000 jobs last month and 372,000 for the year.

Temporary staffing showed itself to be particularly vulnerable: It lost 81,000 jobs in December and 490,000 for the year.

Manufacturers had their biggest monthly job loss since August 2001, shedding 149,000 and bringing the industry’s decline to 791,000 jobs for 2008.

Construction topped the list of hardest-hit industries of 2008, with job losses totaling 899,000.

Since the start of the recession in December 2007, when the unemployment rate was less than 5 percent, the number of unemployed people has grown by 3.6 million, to 11.1 million. More than half of those losses came in the last four months of 2008.

The number of so-called involuntary part-time workers, people who would like to work full time but whose hours have been reduced or who cannot find full-time jobs, rose in the past year by 3.4 million, to 8 million as of December.

—Jeremy Smerd

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