December jobless rate hits 15-year high

Job seeker Christopher Tan (R) gives a resume to a potential employer during the "Put Your Talent to Work" job and resource expo in Concord, Calif.

TEXT OF STORY

Scott Jagow: The last three months of the year is when the job market really tanked, and put 2008 in the history books. This morning, we got December's unemployment numbers, and they were a little better than November. But for the year, the economy lost 2.6 million jobs. That's the highest number since the end of World War II. More now from Marketplace's Janet Babin at North Carolina Public Radio.


Janet Babin: The Labor Department says businesses cut 524,000 jobs last month. That hikes December's unemployment rate to a whopping 7.2 percent -- the highest it's been in more than 15 years. The only sectors that gained jobs in December were heath care and education.

Economist Richard DeKaser with National City Bank says businesses shed payrolls to survive the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression. But he's optimistic that the jobs figures will improve somewhat later this year:

Richard DeKaser: Employment is a lagging economic indicator. Things remain very stressed financially, but we have seen some modest improvements, and of course policymakers are working aggressively to improve conditions even further.

That includes President-elect Obama's stimulus plan to create or save 3 million jobs over the next few years. For now, the pace of job losses is adding to worries that this recession will be the longest since the early 80's.

I'm Janet Babin for Marketplace.

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