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U.S. jobless nears 7-year high
Rate hits 5.8% as 124,000 jobs lost in December
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. unemployment rate climbed to 5.8 per cent in December, the highest in almost seven years, as businesses cut 124,000 jobs during the month.
The unemployment rate was up 0.2 percentage points from a revised 5.6 per cent in November, the Labor Department reported today.
Since the recession began in March, businesses have slashed 1.4 million jobs.
December's loss of 124,000 jobs reflected continued declines in manufacturing, retail, air transportation and temporary employment services. But the hemorrhaging slowed somewhat last month after job losses averaging about 400,000 a month in October and November.
The last time the U.S. unemployment rate was 5.8 per cent was in March 1995. The jobless rate has not been higher since September 1994, when it stood at 5.9 per cent.
2001 was a particularly bad year for U.S. manufacturing, which shed 1.3 million jobs — seven per cent of its workforce.
Many manufacturing companies dismissed more than one in 10 of their workers last year, mainly in furniture, metals, industrial machinery, textiles and apparel.
A sliver of hope for manufacturing appeared in December's employment report, as the factory workweek increased by 0.4 hour to 40.7 hours, and factory overtime rose 0.2 hour to 3.9 hours.
December job declines were heavy in retail with 77,000 job cuts, particularly at general merchandise stores and retailers such as toy stores and jewelry stores, which fell short of their typical holiday hiring.
Those declines were tempered slightly by job gains in auto dealerships as free financing beckoned customers.
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