WASHINGTON — The U.S. lost 598,000 jobs in January — including 8,600 department store positions —  in the worst monthly decline in 34 years.

The economy has shed a total of 3.6 million jobs since the recession started in December 2007, with close to half of those evaporating in the three months since November 2008, the Labor Department said Friday. Unemployment rose to 7.6 percent from 7.2 percent last month. Losses were widespread across all industries.

Department stores slashed 8,600 jobs to employ 1.5 million workers as consumer spending dried up. Specialty stores added 1,400 positions to employ 1.45 million.

Apparel and textile manufacturers also reported losses in January. Textile mills, which make apparel fabric, cut 3,100 jobs to employ 134,400 workers. Textile product mills, which manufacture industrial and home furnishing fabrics trimmed payrolls by 2,300 to employ 139,600 people. Apparel companies  eliminated 4,200 positions to employ 178,700 workers.

Layoffs at retailers in January followed a dismal holiday season. Among the companies that announced significant cuts were Target Corp., Saks Inc., Macy’s Inc., Liz Claiborne Inc. and Bon-Ton Stores Inc. Smaller layoff were also announced at  Eddie Bauer Holdings Inc., Chico’s FAS Inc., Pacific Sunwear of California Inc. and The Wet Seal Inc.