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Oct. 3 (Bloomberg) — The U.S. lost the most jobs in five years in September and earnings rose less than forecast as the credit crisis deepened the economic slowdown.

Payrolls fell by 159,000, more than anticipated, after a 73,000 decline in August, the Labor Department said today in Washington. The jobless rate, the last one reported before the presidential election, remained at 6.1 percent. Hours worked reached the lowest level since records began in 1964.

The world’s largest economy may be headed for bigger job losses as the worst financial meltdown since the Great Depression causes consumers and companies to retrench. A sinking labor market and rising borrowing costs raise the odds Federal Reserve policy makers will cut interest rates by their Oct. 29 meeting.

“The financial panic is a body blow to business confidence, and companies are now battening down the hatches,” Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Economy.com in West Chester, Pennsylvania, said before the report. “We’re in store for very sizable job losses across many industries. A rate cut by the Fed could come before the next meeting.”

Revisions added 4,000 to payroll figures previously reported for August and July. The Labor Department said it was “unlikely” that Hurricane Ike, which struck the Gulf Coast last month, “had substantial effects” on payrolls figures.

After today, the total decline in payrolls so far this year has reached 760,000. The economy created 1.1 million jobs in 2007. […]

The jobless rate is up 1.4 percentage points from September 2007. Since World War II, the rate has risen only twice during similar periods before presidential elections. In both cases — when Bill Clinton defeated George H. W. Bush in 1992 and when Ronald Reagan beat Jimmy Carter in 1980 — the incumbent party lost the election.

Americans will go to the polls on Nov. 4 and the October jobs report is due Nov. 7.

“Voters are extremely angry, and they want someone to blame,” said Scott Anderson, senior economist at Wells Fargo & Co. in Minneapolis.

Presidential Race

Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama has opened up a lead over Republican rival John McCain in the aftermath of their first debate and amid growing concerns about the economy, according to a Pew Research Center survey taken Sept. 27 to Sept. 29. A mid-September poll from Washington-based Pew had shown the candidates were in a statistical dead heat.

Earlier in September, a Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll showed more respondents said Obama would do a better job handling the financial crisis than McCain, and almost half of the voters believed he had better ideas to strengthen the economy than his rival.

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Source: Bloomberg

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