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Nationwide jobless rate reaches five-year high

By Jeannine Aversa

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The nation’s unemployment rate zoomed to a five-year high of 6.1 percent in August as employers slashed 84,000 jobs, dramatic proof of the mounting damage a deeply troubled economy is inflicting on workers and businesses alike.

The Labor Department’s report, released today, showed the increasing toll the housing, credit and financial crises are taking on the economy.

The report was sure to rattle Wall Street again. All the major stock indexes tumbled into bear territory Thursday as investors lost hope of a late-year recovery. With the employment situation deteriorating, there’s growing worry that consumers will recoil, throwing the economy into a tailspin later this year or early next year.

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The jobless rate jumped to 6.1 percent in August, from 5.7 percent in July. And, employers cut payrolls for the eighth month in a row. Job losses in June and July turned out to be much deeper. The economy lost a whopping 100,000 jobs in June and another 60,000 in July, according to revised figures. Previously, the government reported job losses at 51,000 in each of those months.

The latest snapshot was worse than economists were forecasting. They were predicting payrolls would drop by around 75,000 in August and the jobless rate to tick up a notch, to 5.8 percent. The grim news comes as the race for the White House kicks into high gear. The economy’s troubles are Americans’ top worry.

Job losses in August were widespread, the government report showed.

Factories cut 61,000 jobs, with housing-related manufacturers and automakers among the hardest hit. Construction firms eliminated 8,000 jobs, retailers axed 20,000 slots, professional and business services slashed 53,000 positions and leisure and hospitality got rid of 4,000. Those losses swamped employment gains in the government, education and health.

Job losses at all private employers — not including government — came to 101,000 in August.

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