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Unemployment Rate by: Washington Post

The U.S. economy lost another 598,000 jobs in January, a larger-than-expected decline that highlighted a weak global economy and the pressure building on companies to cut costs and payrolls.

It was the largest one-month job loss since December 1974, and pushed the unemployment rate to 7.6 percent, from 7.2 percent in December.

That is the highest unemployment rate since the fall of 1992 — and it would have been higher except for a slight decline in the number of people looking for work, itself a possible sign of economic weakness as people become discouraged from job-hunting.

At present, 11.6 million people are out of work, a headline number likely to figure into ongoing debate in the Senatetoday over the Obama administration’s proposed economic stimulus package.

President Obama has warned of possible double-digit unemployment if the government does not act quickly, and called today’s news "very troubling."

In announcing the creation of the new Economic Recovery Advisory Board this morning, Obama said, "I am sure that at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, members of the Senate are reading these same numbers this morning. I hope they share my sense of urgency and draw the same, unmistakable conclusion: The situation could not be more serious. These numbers demand action. It is inexcusable and irresponsible for any of us to get bogged down in distraction and delay and politics as usual while millions of Americans are being put out of work. It is time for Congress to act."

U.S. businesses and institutions have shed jobs for 13 consecutive months, and the increasing pace of the job losses might indicate worse to come. Since the recession began in December 2007, 3.6 million payroll positions have been lost, with about half of that decline coming in the past three months, according to data released this morning by the Labor Department.

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