WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. employers axed payrolls by 533,000 jobs in November, the most in 34 years and far more than expected, government data on Friday showed, as the year-old recession hammered every corner of the U.S. economy.
Oil prices and the dollar weakened and U.S. Treasury bond prices rallied on the news that confirms the recession was now hitting activity across the board.
“You can’t get much uglier than this. The economy has just collapsed, and has gone into a free fall,” said Richard Yamarone, chief economist at Argus Research in New York.
The Labor Department said the unemployment rate rose to 6.7 percent last month to the highest reading since 1993, compared with 6.5 percent in October.
“This is a clear employment blowout. Firms are reacting as dramatically as they can to make sure they have cost structures they can survive the recession we are in,” said Joel Naroff, president of Naroff Economic Advisors in Holland, PA.
November’s job losses were the steepest since December 1974, when 602,000 jobs were shed, and were much worse than forecast by analysts polled by Reuters who had predicted a reduction of 340,000 jobs.
In addition, job losses in recent months turned out to be worse than previously reported. October’s loss was revised to show a cut of 320,000, originally given as a 240,000 loss, while September’s drop was revised to 403,000 from 284,000.
That meant 199,000 more jobs were lost in September and October than previously thought and the total reduction in U.S. nonfarm payrolls for the last three months was 1.256 million, with almost 2 million shed in the year so far.
“It’s just a disaster,” said Stephen Stanley, chief U.S. economist at RBS Greenwich in Greenwich, Conn.
Service-providing businesses alone shed 370,000 jobs in November, or two-thirds of the overall job declines, following a loss of 153,000 jobs the month before.
That meant labor market weakness has now shifted over from the goods-producing sectors of the economy to the far more important services sector, which delivers almost 80 percent of U.S. output.
The length of the workweek slipped to 33.5 hours, the shortest since records began in 1964, a Labor Department official said.
(Reporting by Alister Bull, Editing by Neil Stempleman)