The Alfred Hitchcock flick “Spellbound” was the year’s most popular movie, the Yankees finished in fourth place and failed to make the playoffs, and President Harry Truman made the decision to drop two atom bombs on Japan.

Not since 1945 has the hemorrhaging of jobs accelerated at such a record pace – bringing last year’s total job losses to a whopping 2.6 million and marking its highest levels since the end of World War II, the Labor Department said yesterday.

There were 2.75 million jobs lost in 1945.

At the same time, the unemployment rate rose to a staggering 7.2 percent in December – up from 6.7 percent the previous month – to its highest level since January 1993.

The total number of unemployed Americans rose by 632,000 and now stands at 11.1 million.

In another disheartening sign, the average workweek fell to 33.3 hours last month from 34.1 in December 2007 – the lowest level in history.

The Labor Department said 2 million of last year’s job losses occurred over the past four months – a sign that the recession accelerated in September as the Wall Street crisis intensified and the stock market plummeted.

“There is no silver lining here,” said Alan Krueger, professor of economics at Princeton University and a former economist for the Labor Department. “The only sectors that didn’t shrink are education, health care and government.”

The figures from last year do not take into account millions more that have reluctantly taken part-time work instead of full-time jobs or have become so discouraged that they’ve stopped looking for work, experts said.

New York’s unemployment rate topped 6.3 percent in November, up from 5.7 percent the previous month.


* By CLEMENTE LISI (AP-January 10, 2009)