WASHINGTON — The nation's unemployment rate bolted to a 14-year high of 6.5 percent in October as 240,000 more jobs were cut, far worse than economists expected and stark proof that the economy is deteriorating at an alarmingly rapid pace.
The new snapshot, released Friday by the Labor Department, showed the crucial jobs market quickly eroding. The jobless rate zoomed to 6.5 percent in October from 6.1 percent in September, matching the rate in March 1994.
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Unemployment has now surpassed the high seen after the last recession in 2001. The jobless rate peaked at 6.3 percent in June 2003.
October's decline marked the 10th straight month of payroll reductions, and government revisions showed that 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 in September, compared with the 159,000 jobs first reported.
So far this year, a staggering 1.2 million jobs have disappeared. Over half of the decrease occurred in the past three months alone. About 10.1 million people were unemployed in October, an increase of 2.8 million over the past year. A year ago, the unemployment rate stood at 4.8 percent.
President Bush said the dismal employment figures reflect "the difficult challenges confronting the economy" and urged the country to have patience, saying a flurry of government measures — including a $700 billion financial bailout package — will take time to work.
The employment market is much weaker than economists expected.