Jobless Rate Surges to 7.2% in December

From the Wall Street Journal:

WASHINGTON — The final employment report for 2008 closed the books on a miserable year for U.S. workers with payrolls plunging last month by more than half a million, pushing the unemployment rate to a 16-year high.

The economy lost 2.6 million jobs in 2008, government figures showed, the most since World War II ended in 1945. Nearly two million of those losses were in the last four months alone, a sign that the recession accelerated as the financial crisis intensified, and should drag on well into the new year.

The figures will likely put pressure on Federal Reserve officials to expand their already aggressive quantitative easing steps in which cash is essentially created and pumped into the economy, and gives backing to those calling for large-scale fiscal stimulus.

Nonfarm payrolls, which are calculated by a survey of establishments, tumbled 524,000 in December, the U.S. Labor Department said Friday, the 12th-straight decline and in line with the 525,000 drop Wall Street economists in a Dow Jones Newswires survey expected. November was revised to show an even steeper decline of 584,000, the most since 1974.