The Labor Department reported today that the national unemployment rate was 7.2% in December, up from 6.8% in November. About 524,000 jobs were shed last month and economists had been expecting the unemployment to rise to 7%. This is the highest level since January 1993. Some more factoids:

  • From the AP: "For all of 2008, the economy lost a net total of 2.6 million jobs. That was the most since 1945, when nearly 2.8 million jobs were lost." (AP points out there were fewer jobs back in 1945.)
  • Reuters: "With those revisions, the total reduction in U.S. nonfarm payrolls in the four months through December was 1.9 million."
  • Bloomberg News: "Last month’s decline was the 12th consecutive drop in payrolls. The economy created 1.1 million jobs in 2007."

Chief economist at IHS Global Insight, Nariman Behravesh, tells Bloomberg News, "Consumers are now going to get more and more scared at the prospect of losing their job. [Obama’s proposed fiscal stimulus] needs to be big, needs to be bold, needs to be swift. If they can do something quickly we can limit the hemorrhage by mid-year.” He also told the NY Times, "These numbers, back to back, of more than a half million a month suggest that the U.S. economy is in a freefall."