The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently released the mass layoff data for December. There were a seasonally adjusted 1,726 mass layoffs for the month (with "mass layoff" defined as 50 or more workers losing their jobs at a single employer) accounting for 153,127 jobs - and that was good news.

The staggering number of lost jobs is enough to fill the 91,665 seat FedEx Field (the National Football League's largest stadium) with the overflow filling three-quarters of the 80,242 seats at Giants Stadium's (the league's second-largest venue). (Layoff rumors can run rampant, but if your company is required to give you two months' notice, you can plan for unemployment. Find out how in Layoffs: Know The WARNing Signs.)

However, there is a bit of hope - this data showed a decrease of 87 mass layoff events and 10,696 jobs from the previous month's total, marking the smallest number of workers cut in a month since July 2008.

Unemployment Through The Recession
Since the start of the recession in December 2007 through the closing month of 2009, the U.S. private sector shed 5,242,840 jobs, as measured by initial claims for unemployment. That would fill the Indianapolis Motor Speedway - the largest sporting venue on earth with a seating capacity of 400,000 - just over 13 times.

Food service contractors, highway/street/bridge construction, school and employee bus transportation, and temporary help were the industries hardest hit by what are officially referred to as "mass layoff initial claims." The BLS reported that the manufacturing sector accounted for 27% of all mass layoff events and 30% of initial claims filed in December.

These stunning numbers are down from 41% and 49%, respectively, from a year ago. (Rebounding from a stint of unemployment can be a frustrating thing to do. These tips should soften the blow: How Unemployment Affects You (Even If You're Working).)

The Worst States
In a continuation of the year's trend, the Midwest saw the highest number of initial claims in December. For the year, the State of California led the nation in terms of initial claims filed, with Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio taking the remainder of the top-five slots. The states faring the worst when compared to the prior year include:

State Increase From 2008
Illinois 89,810
California 85,548
Pennsylvania 54,483

Twenty-six states broke records in 2009, racking up the largest number of mass layoff claims since data tracking began in the second quarter of 1995. Nationally, the unemployment rate remains stalled at 10%. States with the highest unemployment rates include:

States With Double-Digit Unemployment Rates

State Rate
Michigan 14.6%
Nevada 13.0%
Rhode Island 12.9%
South Carolina 12.6%
California 12.4%
District of Columbia 12.1%
Florida 11.8%
North Carolina 11.2%
Illinois 11.1%
Oregon 11.0%
Alabama 11.0%
Tennessee 10.9%
Ohio 10.9%
Kentucky 10.7%
Mississippi 10.6%
Georgia 10.3%
New Jersey 10.1%
Source - Bureau of Labor Statistics

The numbers aren't that great across the country, but there was some good news. Seven states actually had fewer workers make initial claims in 2009 than they did in 2008. The top three include:

State Decrease from 2008
Louisiana 5,566
Mississippi 3,702
Kentucky 2,632

Job Creation: Not Happening Yet
While the stock market turnaround witnessed in 2009 brought good news to investors, the struggling economic turnaround has so far been jobless. The International Labour Organization, an agency under the umbrella of the United Nations, recently announced that the jobless recovery has left 212 million people out of work across the globe. The agency anticipates high unemployment through 2010 and economists for the American Bankers Association agree with that forecast. Although mass layoff data is trending downward, job growth does not appear likely in the near term.