Unemployment rate rises in December

The U.S. unemployment rate increased from 6.8 percent in November 2008 to 7.2 percent in December 2008, according to The New York Times.

Employers cut 524,000 jobs in December 2008, bringing the total number of job losses in 2008 to 2.6 million; more than 11 million people in the U.S. now are unemployed. In October and November 2008 alone, there were 956,000 job losses.

"These numbers, back to back, of more than a half million a month suggest that the U.S. economy is in a freefall," says Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at IHS Global Insight, Lexington, Mass. "It's scary, and it indicates that unless something is done quickly to turn this economy around, we're looking at an awful situation this year."

President-elect Obama and Congress are being pressured to quickly enact a stimulus package that includes tax cuts and public spending. However, many forecasters say even with a stimulus plan, the economy may not begin to recover until early summer and may not generate jobs until months after that. Some say the employment rate could reach 9 percent or 10 percent by the end of 2009.

Job gains in education, health care and government in December 2008 were overshadowed by 101,000 job losses in construction; 149,000 in factories; 113,000 in professional and business services; 67,000 in retail; and 22,000 in leisure and hospitality.

Date : 1/15/2009