The U.S. unemployment rate jumped to a 26-year high of 9.7% in August as nonfarm payrolls fell by 216,000, the 20th consecutive monthly decline, the Labor Department estimated Friday.
U.S. payrolls have dropped by 6.9 million to a total of 131.2 million since the recession began in December 2007, the government data showed. Unemployment has increased by 7.4 million during the recession to stand at 14.9 million.
The 216,000 decline in payrolls was close to market expectations of a 233,000 drop, but the unemployment rate rose higher than the 9.5% level expected. The unemployment rate was 9.4% in July.
Details of the August report were generally weak, however.
Payrolls fell in most sectors of the economy except for health care. Total hours worked in the economy dropped by 0.3%, long-term unemployment worsened, and the number of people working just part time who want full-time work reached 9.1 million, up 278,000.
The number of people who've been out of work longer than six months nudged up to 5 million, representing about one-third of the unemployed.
An alternative measure of unemployment that includes discouraged workers and those forced to resort to part-time work rose to 16.8% from 16.3%, marking the highest on record dating back to 1995.
Average hourly earnings on the month rose 6 cents, or 0.3%, to $18.65 an hour. In the past year, average hourly earnings are up 2.6%.