WASHINGTON — The nation’s unemployment rate rose from 6.8 to 7.2 percent in December, the U.S. Department of Labor reported last Friday.

The economy has lost 2.6 million jobs over the last 12 months, with 75 percent (or 1.4 million) of those jobs gone in the last four months. In December alone, 524,000 jobs disappeared.

The job losses were large and widespread across most major industry sectors, including manufacturing, construction and employment services, the Labor Department said. Employment also decreased in automobile dealerships by 22,000 jobs. Despite these losses, the health care sector continued to add jobs with 32,000 jobs added in December, and a total of 372,000 jobs created in 2008.

Since the start of the recession in December 2007, the number of unemployed persons has grown by 3.6 million, and the unemployment rate has risen by 2.3 percentage points.

The last time the unemployment rate exceeded 7 percent was in 1993.