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January 09, 2009
Jobless Rate Rises to Highest Level Since 1993

Employers shed more than 520,000 jobs in December, and the unemployment rate rose from 6.8 percent to 7.2 percent, the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.

Payroll employment fell by 1.9 million over the last 4 months of 2008. In December, job losses were large and widespread across most major industry sectors.

Since December 2007, the number of unemployed individuals has grown by 3.6 million, and the unemployment rate has risen by 2.3 percentage points.

Meanwhile, the number of individuals who worked part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) continued to increase, reaching 8.0 million. The number of such workers rose by 3.4 million over the past 12 months. This category includes persons who would like to work full time but were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find full-time jobs.

There were 642,000 discouraged workers in December, up by 279,000 from a year earlier. Discouraged workers are individuals not currently looking for work specifically because they believe no jobs are available for them.

In December, men (7.2 percent) had a much higher unemployment rate than women (5.9 percent) did.

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