The latest US jobless figures make grim reading. Employers there slashed their payrolls by 524,000 in December.
It means last year’s total job losses were 2.6 million, the worst decline since 1945.
The US Labour Department said the national jobless rate rose to 7.2 percent of the working population in December, its highest level in almost 16 years. The revised rate for November was 6.8 percent.
But for investors on Wall Street the news could have been worse, indeed economists surveyed before the figures were released had predicted the totals would be slightly higher.
However they are an indication of how big a task President-elect Barack Obama has ahead of him.
Obama said this week the US economy could stay mired in recession for years without bold action and he urged lawmakers in the US Congress to work day and night to pass a massive stimulus plan.
The US central bank, the Federal Reserve, recently scaled back its predictions for economic growth and the job market and said the unemployment rate is “likely to rise significantly into 2010.’‘