By Lucia Mutikani
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. unemployment rate surged to the highest level in nearly 16 years last month as a deepening year-long recession forced companies to cut payrolls by more than half a million jobs, data showed on Friday.
The economy lost an astonishing 1.9 million jobs in the past four months alone, an acceleration in layoffs toward the end of a year that brought the biggest drop in employment in more than a half century.
For all of 2008, the economy shed 2.6 million jobs, the largest decline since a 2.75 million drop in 1945.
The December data pointed to a bleak start for 2009 and increased chances the economic downturn could become the longest since the 1930s.
"This is a very dismal report. This paints a much worse picture in 2008 than we had thought," said Lindsey Piegza, market analyst at FTN Financial in New York. "This is one of the most significant downward quarters for jobs in post World War (Two) history." (Read full article...)