Employment picture turns even uglier

EMPLOYMENT PICTURE TURNS EVEN UGLIER…. It wasn’t too long ago when it would take a year to lose a half-million jobs. Now, it’s happening in just a month.

Skittish employers slashed 533,000 jobs in November, the most in 34 years, catapulting the unemployment rate to 6.7 percent, dramatic proof the country is careening deeper into recession.

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 533,000 number is the worst in a single month since December 1974.

Economists had forecasted a loss of 320,000 jobs in November, making the news that much more painful. Adding insult to injury, the estimates from the last two months were revised downward. All told, 2.7 million jobs have been eliminated since the recession began, and more than 10.3 million people are currently out of work.

Not surprisingly, consumer confidence is in freefall: “We have recorded the largest decline in consumer confidence in our history,” said Richard T. Curtin, director of the Reuters/University of Michigan Survey of Consumers, which started its polling in the 1950s. “It is being driven down by a host of factors: falling home and stock prices, fewer work hours, smaller bonuses, less overtime and disappearing jobs.”

Ouch.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.