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More than 2.6 million workers in the United States lost their jobs in 2008, the highest number since World War II ended in 1945. Over 154 million more, nearly half the population, are at risk of facing mass lay-offs.
The U.S. Labor Department reported that, following the credit crisis in the last four months of 2008, the number of unemployed people has continued to accelerate, with more than half a million reporting jobless status in the last month of the same year alone. Additionally, the number of collective working hours fell 20%, the lowest level since 1964.
In the last four months of last year, 1.9 million non-farm laborers were laid off, with 524,000 “let go” in December alone. In the same month, 101,000 construction workers lost their jobs, bringing the figure to a total of 899,000 for the entire year.
In addition, 791,000 factory workers lost their jobs in 2008, with nearly half of the losses occurring in the fourth quarter. On the other hand, retail trade cut its employment by 67,000 people, making a total of 522,000 for the same year. Furthermore, professional and business services, and the temporary help industry, have cut a total of 490,000 jobs. Another 296,000 workers lost their jobs in transportation, warehousing, food services, the information sector, and financial services.
The unemployment rate has risen from 6.8% in November to 7.2% in December, the highest in 16 years.
Also in December, 642,000 discouraged workers have been recorded—people not currently looking for work thinking that no jobs are available for them—up by 279,000 from 2007.
U.S. President-elect Barack Obama, speaking in a news conference in Washington, said the job recession demonstrates why Congress should get to work quickly with his $775 billion economic stimulus plan. “The situation is dire,” he said. “It is deteriorating and it demands urgent and immediate action” (globalinvestor.com).
An unprecedented number of unemployment claims—more than half a million—have crushed computer database systems in California, Colorado, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, New York, North Carolina and Ohio. They have broken down under the avalanche of calls and Internet inquiries, USA Today reported (UPI).
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the recession also affected the average length of the work week for production and non-supervisory workers as it fell by 0.2 hour to 33.3 hours, the lowest level on records since 1964.