The new figures, released by the Labor Department Friday, showed the crucial employment market deteriorating at an alarmingly rapid clip, and handed Americans some more grim news right before the holidays.
As companies throttled back hiring, the unemployment rate bolted from 6.5 percent in October to 6.7 percent last month, a 15-year high.
Job losses were widespread, hitting factories, construction companies, financial firms, retailers, leisure and hospitality, and others industries. The few places where gains were logged included the government, education and health services.
The loss of 533,000 payroll jobs was much deeper than the 320,000 job cuts economists were forecasting. The rise in the unemployment rate, however, wasn't as steep as the 6.8 percent rate they were expecting. Taken together, though, the employment picture was dismal.
The job reductions were the most since a whopping 602,000 positions were slashed in December 1974, when the country was in a severe recession.
Job losses in September and October also turned out to be much worse. Employers cut 403,000 jobs in September, versus 284,000 previously estimated. Another 320,000 were chopped in October, compared with an initial estimate of 240,000.
Employers are slashing costs to the bone as they try to cope with sagging appetites from customers in the U.S. and in other countries, which are struggling with their own economic troubles.
The carnage - including the worst financial crisis since the 1930s - is hitting a wide range of companies.
In recent days, household names like AT&T Inc., DuPont, JPMorgan Chase & Co., as well as jet engine maker Pratt & Whitney, a subsidiary of United Technologies Corp., and mining company Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. announced layoffs.
Fighting for their survival, the chiefs of Chrysler LLC, General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. will return Friday to Capitol Hill to again ask lawmakers for as much as $34 billion in emergency aid.
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