Unemployment Rate Hits 9.8%

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The economy may end the year on a down note.

The unemployment rate increased to 9.8% in November, the highest level in seven months, as the country’s job growth remained largely stagnant.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday that businesses added just 39,000 jobs last month, falling well short of the 172,000 jobs added in October. According to the report, the only industries to add significant jobs in November were health care and temporary health services. Employment in other sectors like manufacturing and construction remained flat, and the retail trade industry actually lost 28,000 jobs.

The unemployment rate had been holding steady at 9.6% during the previous three months.

In total, there were 15.1 million unemployed Americans in November, more than 6.5 million of whom have been out of work for six months or longer. Another 9 million Americans were underemployed last month, forced to work part-time rather than full-time jobs.

These numbers are essentially unchanged from the month before. However, the report did find that the number of Americans who have given up looking for jobs because they believe none are available increased to 1.3 million in November, from 861,000 a year earlier.

To make matters worse, unemployment benefits are set to run out for millions of Americans who have been out of work for six months or longer by the end of this year. However, there is a chance that Congress may approve a bill extending these benefits for an additional three months as a part of a negotiation to approve tax cuts for wealthy Americans.

Either way, the Bureau of Labor’s report reawakens fears that the economy will only get worse before it gets better. The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco recently predicted that the unemployment rate would hit double digits again by early next year, while other reports have claimed that unemployment will not fall below 9% until sometime in 2012.

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