US employers unexpectedly shed 85,000 jobs in December, leaving unemployment running at 10 per cent, according to the latest statistics from the Labor Department in Washington DC.
The sharp decline was a disappointment after the creation of 4,000 new jobs in November – the first monthly improvement since the recession started – had raised hoped of a swift economic recovery. Economists had been predicting a slight dip in December, with around 10,000 jobs lost.
The news hit stock markets across the world this afternoon, leaving European shares flat after modest growth earlier in the day. The dollar also slipped back slightly.
In the last two years, the number of unemployed people in the US has shot up from less than 8 million to more than 15 million.
The gloomy figures from December will add further pressure to the Obama government to stem the tide and create new jobs.