598,000 Jobs Lost in January, the Worst One-Month Plunge in 35 Years

The unemployment rate hit 7.6 percent last month, the highest level since 1992.

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In the biggest one-month plunge in jobs since 1974, the United States shed 598,000 jobs in January, bringing the unemployment rate to 7.6 percent. That brings the total number of jobs lost during the recession to 3.6 million.

The numbers in the report released by the Labor Department today are even worse than economists had predicted. And for 2008 overall, it shows that the United States lost about 3 million jobs—about 400,000 more than first thought.

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate, at 7.6 percent, is the highest it has been since 1992. Over the past year, the number of people who have been unemployed for 27 weeks or more has gone up by 1.3 million. The worst-hit industries included manufacturing, construction, and retail.

For some demographics, unemployment is even higher. Blacks have a 12.6 percent unemployment rate, for example. For Hispanics, the rate is 9.7 percent.

Furthermore, the Labor Department report notes, the unemployment rate doesn't include people who work part-time to support themselves—including people who want a full-time job but can't find one. The number of individuals in that category, sometimes called "involuntary part-time workers," remained steady in January, at about 7.8 million. Over the past 12 months, however, it has increased by 3.1 million people.

The unemployment rate also doesn't include "marginally attached" workers, which refers to people who want jobs and have looked for them over the past year but didn't look in the four weeks before the Labor Department survey. That category would add another 2.1 million people to the jobless ranks in January.

As the Senate continues to debate the now $920 billion stimulus package today, it seems likely that these figures—which could fuel concern that the recession will get worse—could play a key role in Democrats' arguments.