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The American economy lost another 85,000 jobs in December according to the U.S. Department of Labor, a surprise uptick that tempered some of last month’s “irrational exuberance” on the employment front.

Forecasters had predicted that the economy would create jobs in December, which many believed would signal the beginning of a recovery from what many are now calling the “Great Recession.”

It didn’t happen.

The Labor Department did revise November’s employment data to show a net gain of 4,000 jobs, but it also added 16,000 new job losses to October’s total. That means the economy shed 127,000 additional jobs in October instead of the 111,000 originally reported.

Obviously, that’s better than the massive job losses of the first few months of 2009 (when the economy was shedding as many as 700,000 jobs a month) but little comfort to the millions of still-unemployed workers.

Speaking of which, the U.S. unemployment rate remained unchanged at 10% in December, which in human terms translates to 15.3 million people who are currently out-of-work.  By contrast, when the U.S. recession began in December 2007, 7.7 million people were out of work and the unemployment rate was 5%.

Meanwhile the “underemployment rate” – which includes those who have given up the job hunt or who have been forced to work part-time – inched up to 17.3%.