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American employers cut 263,000 jobs last month, pushing the unemployment rate up to a 26-year high of 9.8%, in a sign of ongoing gloom in the labour market that stoked fears of a slow recovery from the worst financial downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
The official figures from the US department of labour were far worse than economists had forecast. Together with a drop in factory orders and a slump in sales for Detroit's car manufacturers, they sent stockmarkets lower and sparked renewed talk of the possibility of a "double dip" recession.
September was the 21st consecutive month of shrinkage for the US workforce. The number of job losses accelerated sharply from a revised tally of 201,000 during August, and the rate of unemployment ticked up from 9.7% to 9.8%.