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January 9, 2009

USA loses 524,000 jobs, unemployment high

POLITICS - America's unemployment rate bolted to 7.2 per cent in December, the highest level in 16 years, as nervous employers slashed 524,000 jobs. The labour market is expected to remain weak as mass layoffs continue.

US job losses were widespread in December. Construction companies slashed 101,000, and factories axed a whopping 149,000 jobs. Professional and business services got rid of 113,000 jobs. Retailers eliminated nearly 67,000 jobs, and leisure and hospitality reduced employment by 22,000. That more than swamped gains in education and health care, and the government.

For all of 2008, the United States economy lost a net total of 2.6 million jobs. That was the most since 1945, when nearly 2.8 million jobs were lost. Although the number of jobs in the U.S. has more than tripled since then, losses of this magnitude are still being painfully felt.

With employers throttling back hiring, the nation's jobless rate averaged 5.8 per cent last year. That was up sharply from 4.6 per cent in 2007 and was the highest since 2003.

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