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US January job losses most severe in 34 years

  US employers slashed 598,000 jobs in January, the deepest cut in payrolls in 34 years as the national unemployment rate shot up to 7.6%, according to a Labor Department report on Friday that underlined a deepening recession.

 

January’s job losses were worse than the 525,000 that had been forecast by Wall Street economists, who also had expected the unemployment rate to come in lower at 7.5%. The bleak employment data is certain to be cited by the Obama administration as a fresh reason for Congress to speed up debate over a multibillion-dollar package of proposals to try to stimulate economic activity.

Last month’s job reductions were the largest since 602,000 in December 1974, while the jobless rate reached its highest level in more than 16 years. “January’s sharp drop in employment brings job losses to 3.6 million since the start of the recession in December 2007,” Commissioner of Labor Statistics Keith Hall said in a statement, and “about half the decline occurred in the last three months.”

January’s losses followed upwardly revised cuts of 577,000 in December and 597,000 in November.

The manufacturing sector bled jobs at the sharpest rate during January in more than 26 years, shedding 207,000 workers after cutting 162,000 in December. The last time more factory jobs were lost in a single month was in October 1982 when 221,000 were cut. An index measuring total paid hours for factory workers dropped to its lowest level since 1940, department officials said.

Construction industries dropped 111,000 jobs in January after 86,000 in December and Hall said that pace of cuts was accelerating. Retail businesses cut another 45,000 positions after shedding 82,700 in December. (Reuters)