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US Jobless Rate Soars; 240,000 Jobs Lost

The U.S. unemployment rate soared to a 14-year high in October, more evidence that the world's largest economy is moving toward a recession.

Friday's report from the Labor Department says the jobless rate rose sharply to hit 6 1/2 percent, while the economy had a net loss of 240,000 jobs for the month. That boosts the total number of unemployed Americans to more than 10 million. Job losses hit building, financial, and manufacturing companies particularly hard.

The grim employment news prompted President-elect Barack Obama to say that enacting a stimulus package to help the middle class is his administration's top priority. He also pledged help for battered auto manufacturers, calling them the "backbone" of the U.S. manufacturing sector. He spoke on the same day top U.S. automakers announced billions of dollars in losses and thousands more layoffs.

Earlier, President George Bush says the high U.S. jobless figures reflect the "difficult challenges" facing the economy, but he urged Americans to be patient and give the measures already enacted to bolster the economy time to work.

U.S. and European stock markets posted strong gains in Friday's trading while key Asian stock indexes were mixed at the close.