WASHINGTON (AP) -- The nation's unemployment rate climbed to 9.8 percent in November, a seven-month high, as hiring slowed.
Employers added only 39,000 jobs last month, a sharp decline from the 172,000 created in October, the Labor Department reported Friday. The weakness was widespread. Retailers, factories, construction companies, financial firms and the government all cut jobs last month.
Many economists were predicting the addition of nearly 150,000 jobs. The economy has recently flashed signs of gaining momentum with busier factories, rising auto sales and a good start to the holiday shopping season. But that didn't translate into mass hiring in November.
In fact, private companies - the backbone of the economy - created 50,000 jobs. That was down significantly from the 160,000 private-sector jobs created in October and was the smallest gain since January.
With hiring so weak, the unemployment rate rose from 9.6 percent to 9.8 percent. The jobless rate has now topped 9 percent for 19 straight months, the longest stretch on record.
All told there were 15.1 million people unemployed in November.
Adding those unemployed people to others who are working part time but would prefer full-time jobs and those who have given up looking for work, 17 percent of the labor force is "underemployed." That was the same as October. Still, the figure remains close to a record high set last year.
Another grim figure: There was a record 1.3 million "discouraged" workers in November. Those are persons not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available to them.