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By Barry Wood
Washington
09 January 2009

People wait to talk with potential employers during job fair at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey, 07 Jan 2009
People wait to talk with potential employers during job fair at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey, 07 Jan 2009
As had been feared, the U.S. economy lost more than one half million jobs in December, capping the worst year for job losses since World War II.

Labor Department figures show 524,000 people lost their jobs in December. This follows 584,000 job losses in November. The Labor Department report reveals an economy in free fall with the unemployment rate up nearly one-half percent to 7.2 percent and rising. The unemployment rate is at a 16-year high.

"In the third quarter [of the year] we lost 600,000 jobs, in round numbers," said Stuart Hoffman, chief economist at PNC Bank in Pittsburgh, speaking on Bloomberg Television. "In the fourth quarter we lost 1.6 million jobs, and a near record job decline for the year. And unfortunately the rate of job decline really just accelerated dramatically in the last three months."

President-elect Obama said the job loss figures show that America is facing a devastating economic crisis. He repeated his appeal for early congressional action to approve a multi-hundred billion dollar government program to stimulate the economy.

For all of 2008 the U.S. economy lost 2.8 million jobs, this in an economy that had created millions of new jobs earlier in the decade. The U.S. economy has been in recession for over one year and the downturn is accelerating amid projections that economic output is currently declining at a more than four percent annual rate.

Financial markets were not greatly impacted by the employment report where bad news had been anticipated. Oil prices were steady at around $40 per as the slowing world economy has brought prices down over 70 percent from their peak back in July. Most stock markets lost ground in Friday trading. 
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