JOB PICTURE DETERIORATES…. We knew the employment numbers would be bleak, but that doesn’t make it any less painful.

Employers slashed another 598,000 jobs off of U.S. payrolls in January, taking the unemployment rate up to 7.6%, according to the latest government reading on the nation’s battered labor market.

The latest job loss is the worst since December 1974, and brings job losses to 1.8 million in just the last three months. It is worse than the forecast of a loss of 540,000 jobs from economists surveyed by

The rise in the unemployment rate was worse than the 7.5% rate economists expected. The unemployment rate is now at its highest level since September, 1992.

Looking back over the current recession, the AP noted, “All told, the economy has lost a staggering 3.6 million jobs since the recession began in December 2007. About half of this decline occurred in the past three months.”

And the New York Times added, “Economists see no hint that the bottom has been reached.”

Given all of this, one might think lawmakers on the Hill would be anxious to support an ambitious stimulus package, erring on the side of too much spending. That would only be true, however, if our political process made sense.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.