This just in, via the New York Times:
WASHINGTON — The country moved into its second year of uninterrupted
job losses last month, with companies shedding another 598,000 jobs and
the unemployment rate moving up to 7.6 percent, the Labor Department
reported on Friday.
Although the United States officially slipped into a recession in
December 2007, the decline was erratic and temporarily disguised by the
impact of the emergency tax rebate last spring. But since September,
analysts say, economic activity has plunged on almost every front.
Consumer spending started to decline in the summer, an extremely rare
event in the United States, even in recession, and by September, almost
every economic indicator had fallen sharply.
For the last
several months, analysts said, the United States has increasingly been
trapped in a vicious circle of slumping consumer demand, falling
business investment, mounting losses in the banking system, and rising
unemployment, which was 7.2 percent in December.
Peter Morici, an economist at the University of Maryland,
estimated that if the labor force participation rate today was as high
as it was when President Bush took office, the unemployment rate would
be 9.4 percent.