The unemployment rate in the US continues to rise, reaching its highest level since 1992 in January with 598,000 jobs lost.

January's sharp drop in employment brings job losses to 3.6 million since the start of the recession in December 2007 and about half the decline occurred in the last three months, Commissioner of Labor Statistics Keith Hall said in a statement.

About half of the decline occurred in the past 3 months. Job losses in January were large and widespread across the major industry sectors.

The unemployment rate rose to 7.6 percent from 7.2 percent in December, the Labor Department said today in Washington, it was the steepest drop in 34 years.

The labor department revealed Thursday that the number of US workers claiming unemployment benefits for the first time surpassed 600,000 last week, reaching a new 26-year high.

The employment-population ratio fell to 60.5 percent down from 62.7 percent at the beginning of the recession, and the lowest since 1986.