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Employment, the bleak picture


The U.S. unemployment rate rose to 7.6 percent in January, with 598,000 people losing their jobs, the U.S. Department of Labor reported today.

The number of jobless has risen by 3.6 million since the start of the recession in December 2007, with about one-half of the job losses occurring in the last three month, the Labor Department said in a news release.

The most recent government report for Greater Des Moines showed unemployment at 4.5 percent in December, an increase of 0.7 percentage points from November and 0.6 percentage points from December 2007.

Nationwide, 207,000 jobs were lost in the manufacturing sector last month, bringing losses in the industry to 1.1 million since the start of the recession. Construction companies shed 111,000 jobs over the month, with the pace of job losses in the industry accelerating in recent months, the Labor Department said.

Private education and health care reported increases in employment.

The situation for the long-term unemployed also worsened. About 2.1 million people were available and willing to work, but had not looked for a job in the last year because they had not been able to find employment prior to that time. The number increased 400,000 over January 2008. Those people are not reflected in the unemployment rate.

Average hourly earnings for production and nonsupervisory workers in the private sector rose by 5 cents, or 0.3 percent, in January, the Labor Department said. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by 3.9 percent.

Payrolls were forecast to drop 540,000, according to the median estimate of 75 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. The jobless rate was projected to jump to 7.5 percent.

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