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WASHINGTON - The nation's unemployment rate reached 5.8 percent in December, highest in more than six years, The Associated Press reports. Businesses cut 124,000 jobs, 77,000 of which were retail.
The unemployment rate was up 0.2 percentage points from a revised 5.6 percent in November, the Labor Department reported. Since the recession began in March, businesses have slashed 1.4 million jobs.
The last time the nation's unemployment rate stood at 5.8 percent was March 1995. It hit 5.9 percent in September 1994.
December declines were heavy in retail with 77,000 job cuts, particularly at general merchandise stores and retailers such as toy stores and jewelry stores, both of which fell short of their typical holiday hiring. During 2001, retail had added 200,000 jobs by July, but losses since then have left employment down by 73,000 during the year.
Many economists predict the jobless rate will top out at around 6.5 percent by June or July, plateau for a while, and start going down in the fall or winter, according to the AP.