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Job Losses Rise, Dampening Hopes for a Quick Recovery

Employers shed 263,000 jobs in September, more than analysts expected, bringing the jobless rate to 9.8 percent. Economics columnist David Leonhardt and labor expert Jacob Kirkegaard look at the numbers.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    The U.S. economy shed more jobs in September as the unemployment rate kept climbing. Margaret Warner has our lead story report.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    The nation's unemployment rate rose to 9.8 percent in September, the highest in 26 years. Employers cut 263,000 jobs, tens of thousands more than economists had predicted.

    In testimony today, the Labor Department's Keith Hall described how far the jobs picture has slid since the recession's onset in December '07.

    KEITH HALL, commissioner, Bureau of Labor Statistics: A total of 15.1 million persons were unemployed in September, twice the number at the start of the recession. The number of long-term unemployed rose to 5.4 million in September; this group has grown more than fourfold since the start of the recession.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    The official rate is only part of the picture. The so-called hidden unemployment rate, which includes those who've settled for part- time work or given up looking altogether, has hit 17 percent.

    President Obama noted today that the economy isn't losing jobs as fast as it was a year ago.

  • U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    But today's job report is a sobering reminder that progress comes in fits and starts and that we're going to need to grind out this recovery step by step. Employment is often the last thing to come back after a recession. That's what history shows us. But our task is to do everything we can possibly do to accelerate that process. And I want to let every single American know that I will not let up until those who are seeking work can find work.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    In Fredericksburg, Virginia, where unemployment is slightly below the national average, some businesses are adding jobs. Tony Kala manages a hotel.

    TONY KALA, Courtyard by Marriott: We have about 50 employees that we hired. That includes full time and part time. That is everybody's — all local people that were hired from here, so that's definitely 50 jobs.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    But elsewhere in town, the recession is still taking a toll. Vonda Merrill is an event planner.

  • VONDA MERRILL, Elle Events:

    I've seen a lot of businesses going out of business, and it's sad to see. A lot of the places that are downtown, you'll see a lot of "for rent" and "for lease" signs because a lot of businesses are just closing down.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Jobs numbers weren't the only bad news this week. Amid fears of a drop in consumer spending, factory orders fell in August by the largest amount in five months.

    For a closer look now at today's numbers and the trends they suggest, we turn to David Leonhardt, economics columnist at the New York Times, and Jacob Kirkegaard, a labor economist and a fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

    Definitely not a rosy picture today. Jacob Kirkegaard, let me stat with you. What did today's numbers tell you, not just about the picture now, but about the prospects that we're going to see a jobs recovery any time soon?