WASHINGTON, D.C.-The unemployment rate jumped from 6.8% to 7.2% in December, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor. Payroll employment fell by 524,000 during the month and by 1.9 million during the last four months of 2008.

Since the start of the recession in December 2007, the number of unemployed persons has grown by 3.6 million, and the unemployment rate has risen by 2.3 percentage points.