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December jobs report: 524,000 lost

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It could have been better but could have been much worse. The rising unemployment rate is somewhat worse than expected and 1.5 million jobs lost for the quarter is not going to make anyone very happy.

The U.S. economy lost 524,000 jobs in December, closing out the worst year for job losses since World War II, the Labor Department said Friday.

Nearly 2.6 million jobs were lost in 2008, with 1.9 million destroyed in just the past four months, according to a survey of work places. It's the biggest job loss in any calendar year since 1945, when 2.75 million jobs were lost as the wartime economy was demobilized.

The unemployment rate rose to 7.2%, the highest in 16 years. Unemployment increased by 632,000 to 11.1 million, according to the survey of households. That same survey showed employment falling by 806,000 in December.

In 2008, the unemployment rate rose by 2.3 percentage points and unemployment increased by 3.6 million.

The report was worse than expected, with payrolls in October and November revised lower by a total of 157,000 jobs. November's loss was revised to 584,000.
Economists surveyed by MarketWatch expected payrolls to fall by 500,000 and for the unemployment rate to rise to 7.1%.

Total hours worked in the economy fell 1.1%, with the average workweek falling to the shortest ever.

An alternative measure of unemployment that includes workers too discouraged to look for a job rose to 13.5% from 12.6% in November; it's the highest in the 13 years since those data have been kept.

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