The latest overall job loss numbers showed a loss of 20,000 jobs in January and an unemployment rate falling to 9.7%. The November and December numbers were revised as well to a gain of 64,000 and a loss of 150,000, respectively. The November gain was the first gain in 23 months. Annual benchmark revisions show 8.4 million jobs have now been lost since this recession began.
So far for this recession, the peak has been 741,000 lost jobs in January 2009. In the 2001 recession, monthly losses hit a high of 325,000. The 1990-91 recession peaked at 306,000 losses. As you can see from the chart below, numbers peak toward the end of a recession, making employment a lagging indicator. The unemployment rate peaked at 10.8% at the end of the 1981-82 recession.