WASHINGTON - Unemployment zoomed to 8.5 percent last month, the highest in a quarter-century, as employers axed 663,000 more workers and pushed the nation's jobless ranks past 13 million. The hard times were only expected to get harder - a painful 10 percent jobless rate before long.

The current rate would be even higher - 15.6 percent - if it included laid-off workers who have given up looking for new jobs or have had to settle for part-time work because they can't do any better. That's the highest on record for that number in figures that go back to 1994.

'Even if the economy continues to show signs of improvement, businesses will cut jobs and trim fats to stay lean and mean,' said Sung Won Sohn, economist at the Martin Smith School of Business at California State University.

So far, the public has shown great hopes for the economic policies of new President Barack Obama.