The nation's unemployment rate bolted to a 14-year high of 6.5 percent in October as another 240,000 jobs were cut. The latest release of information by the Labor Department shows the crucial jobs market deteriorating at an alarmingly rapid pace. Economists are calling these numbers proof that the economy is almost certainly in a recession.
The jobless rate zoomed to 6.5 percent in October from 6.1 percent in September, matching the rate in March 1994. Employers have cut jobs each month this year.
Unemployment has now surpassed the high seen after the last recession in 2001. The jobless rate peaked at 6.3 percent in June 2003.
The unemployment rates for adult men, women and Whites rose. For men, it was 6.3 percent; for women, 5.3 percent; and Whites, 5.9 percent. It also rose for Hispanics, 8.8 percent. The jobless rates for teenagers, at 20.6, percent and Blacks, 11.1 percent, remained about the same. The rate for African-Americans is consistently in double digits and nearly twice that of Whites.
Employers got rid of 240,000 jobs in October, marking the 10th straight month of payroll reductions.
Job losses in August and September turned out to be much deeper. Employers cut 127,000 positions in August, compared with 73,000 previously reported. A whopping 284,000 jobs were axed last month, compared with the 159,000 jobs first reported. So far this year, a staggering 1.2 million jobs have disappeared.
The employment market is much weaker than economists expected. They were forecasting the unemployment rate to climb to 6.3 percent in October and for payrolls to fall by around 200,000.
Job losses were widespread. Factories cut 90,000 jobs, construction companies got rid of 49,000 jobs, retailers cut payrolls by 38,000, professional and business services reduced employment by 45,000, financial activities cut 24,000 jobs, and leisure and hospitality axed 16,000 positions.
President-elect Barack Obama will huddle with economic advisers later on Friday. His team has been in close contact with the Bush administration to pave the way for a smooth hand-off of power.
The problems in the economy (which include a housing collapse, mounting foreclosures, hard-to-get credit and financial market upheaval) will be waiting for Obama when he assumes office early next year.