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Jobless rate hits 34-year high

As the economic crisis deepens, the nation's payrolls last month shed a staggering 533,000 jobs - the largest number of jobs lost in a month since 1974.

As the economic crisis deepens, the nation's payrolls last month shed a staggering 533,000 jobs - the largest number of jobs lost in a month since 1974.

"The numbers - I find them distressing," said Chris Gross, 52, of Hatboro, a data-operations analyst who has been out of work since April. "There are going to be more people competing for fewer and fewer jobs."

Gross is one of the 10.3 million Americans who are unemployed - a number that has grown by 2.7 million people this year. The unemployment rate now stands at 6.7 percent, up from 6.5 percent last month and from 4.7 percent in November 2007.

Today's job-loss report from the U.S. Labor Department comes as businesses press Washington to do more to alleviate the financial meltdown that has clearly spread beyond Wall Street to Main Street.

"The timing of this could not be worse," said chief economist Robert Dye at PNC Financial Services Group, of Pittsburgh. "There's going to be a less-than-nimble political response due to the change in administration. We're losing time."

President-elect Barack Obama, while positioning himself to act quickly once in office, cautioned in a statement today that "there are no quick or easy fixes to this crisis, which has been many years in the making, and it's likely to get worse."

By some estimates, the actual unemployment and underemployment rate has risen as high as 12.5 percent. That rate includes people who are either discouraged and have stopped looking for work or who have been forced to work part time because they cannot find full-time jobs.

President Bush, speaking to reporters at the White House only hours after the Labor Department released its report, said the "economy is in a recession. This is in large part because of severe problems in our housing, credit and financial markets, which have resulted in significant job losses."

The growing number of unemployed is beginning to strain support services.

In New Jersey, Gov. Corzine asked Labor Commissioner David J. Socolow to bring in 130 emergency workers to process a backlog of unemployment claims.

Pennsylvania is also experiencing some delays in processing claims as laid-off workers struggle to file paperwork.

The state is hiring 132 additional people to take the phone calls, said Robert Garraty, executive director of the Pennsylvania Workforce Investment Board.

The U.S. Labor Department today revised payroll losses upward to 403,000 jobs lost in September and 320,000 lost in October.

Manufacturing continued to shed jobs, with 85,000 lost in November, according to today's report. Construction employment fell 82,000.

Employment services lost 101,000 jobs, as companies shed temporary workers in an unsuccessful effort to spare full-time employees.

The deepening crisis in the auto industry led to a loss of 24,000 jobs in automobile dealerships, out of 91,000 retail jobs cut in November, a time when jobs are usually added.

Employment in transportation and warehousing declined 32,000, with 12,000 jobs lost in truck transportation alone.

Financial services also declined 32,000 jobs - but the fallout moved beyond jobs in banks and brokerages.

Among those who lost their jobs last month were 460 Warminster employees at Transcontinental Direct Inc., a Montreal company that prints direct-mail pieces for the financial-services industry.

It shut its facility in Warminster on Nov. 3, moving operations, but no workers, to its plant in Hamburg, Pa.

The only bright spot was the addition of 52,000 jobs to education and health services, with most of them in health care, the report said.

One company that has gotten a boost in this tough economy is Right Management, a Philadelphia subsidiary of Manpower Inc.

Companies that are laying off workers hire Right to provide job counseling and other outplacement services.

On Monday, so many people had shown up at Right's office in Berwyn to attend a job seminar that Gail Landazuri, general manager of the entire Mid-Atlantic region, arrived at work to find that every single chair in her executive office, including the chair at her desk, had been taken to seat people for a seminar.

"All my furniture was gone," she said. "I got it back a couple of hours later."