The December losses also show an accelerating number of layoffs in recent months, leaving the prospect for workers in 2009 that much more grim.
And many investors on Wall Street look toward President Obama to see how exactly his proposed stimulus plan "will save or create at least 3 million jobs over the next few years," as he says.
How he will do that is unclear. Obama said he plans to invest in energy, education, health care and new infrastructure.
"We will put Americans to work in new jobs that pay well and can't be outsourced, jobs building solar panels and wind turbines; constructing fuel-efficient cars and buildings and developing the new energy technologies that will lead to even more jobs, more savings and a cleaner, safer planet in the bargain," Obama said a few weeks ago.
But, in the meantime, a growing number of Americans are collecting unemployment and desperately searching for new jobs, ones that pay close to what they used to make.
Beyond that, fear of layoffs is taking its own toll on the economy. Some workers who still draw weekly paychecks are cutting back on their spending for fear of losing their jobs down their road. While they might be saving for a rainy day, their lack of spending is driving the country deeper into a recession and putting their own jobs in jeopardy.
Here's a snapshot of some of the other biggest layoff announcements of the past 12 months, provided to ABC News by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. While some of these have already been reflected in the government data, others will be phased in during the next few months.
The financial sector has been hit particularly hard in this recession as bad investments and risky loans have gone bad. Banking giant Citigroup had more layoffs than any other company in 2008, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, first with a 9,000-job cut announced in April and then another 50,000 jobs eliminated right before Thanksgiving.
It would be an understatement to say that 2008 was a bad year for U.S. automakers who had to turn to the government to bail them out for the time being. First, record-high gas prices drove consumers away from large SUVs and trucks that had been the bread and butter of the automakers for years. Then, banks started to cut off credit to consumers, making car loans harder and harder to come by. As part of its efforts to try and remain profitable, GM in May announced the layoff of 19,000 hourly workers.
Retailers had a particularly hard Christmas as consumers cut back on their spending. But even before the holiday shopping spree, KB Toys, with 275 stores in malls and nearly another 200 temporary and outlet stores, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. It was the second filing in four years for the company. As the toy store company goes out of business, 15,000 workers will lose their jobs.
Things weren't so great in the restaurant business this year, either. Americans struggling with rising mortgages and high gas prices cut back on the number of times they ate out. One of the casualties was Bennigan's, which, in July, filed for bankruptcy, closing all the company-owned restaurants. About 9,300 people lost their jobs.
Even rocket scientists aren't immune from the bad economy. Faced with budget cutbacks, NASA announced in June that 7,000 employees at the space agency would lose their jobs.