- The Washington Times - Friday, February 6, 2009

UPDATED

The economy lost nearly 600,000 jobs in January for a third straight month in its worst jobs performance since 1974, driving the nation’s unemployment rate up to 7.6 percent, the Labor Department reported Friday morning.

No one was spared as the latest huge job losses were widespread in nearly every sector of the economy and brought the total of jobs eliminated in the last three months to nearly 1.8 million. It was the biggest string of job losses the country has seen in modern times. Since the recession began a year ago, the economy has lost 3.6 million jobs.

“Since the start of the recession, the U.S. economy has shed more jobs than the total population of Chicago,” said Heidi Shierholz, economist at the Employment Policy Institute, a labor think-tank. “The rug has been pulled out from under working families in this country.”

Manufacturers laid off a stunning 207,000 workers, idling auto plants and other factories as consumers stayed away from auto showrooms and export markets around the world sank deep into recession. It was manufacturing’s worst month since the severe recession of 1982.

Another 110,000 construction workers were laid off, bringing the total lost in the last year to 1 million. Another casualty of the housing and financial crisis, employment in financial services fell by 42,000 and is down 388,000 in the last two years.

Retail got an expected drubbing after the worst Christmas season in more than 40 years. About 45,000 retail jobs went down the drain. With consumers boycotting the malls, retailers have laid off nearly 600,000 people in the last year. The only sectors that managed to eke out small job gains last month were government, education and health care.

Unemployment rose strongly among every group from white men to black teenagers. The steep run-up in unemployment from under 5 percent at the start of the recession has also been unprecedented in modern times and reflects the rapid-fire elimination of jobs in every sector of the economy. It has driven unemployment claims to record highs.