The nation's unemployment rate rose to 8.4 percent in November, the highest monthly rate in more than six years, as the economy plunged deeper into recession.
White House deputy press secretary Larry Speakes called the jobless rate "the price you have to pay for bringing down inflation."
The Labor Department reported that unemployment rose four-tenths of a percentage point last month, with the total number of people out of work now more than 9 million. The unemployment rate has jumped nearly a full percentage point since September as more than a million people lost their jobs in the last two months.
The president's economic advisers recently predicted the unemployment rate could reach as high as 9 percent during the recession. President Reagan met with his advisers yesterday in an effort to pin down the administration's economic projections for next year.
"The economic downturn is widespread," Janet Norwood, commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, told Congress. She said the November unemployment rate was the highest since the 8.7 percent of July, 1975, when the nation was beginning to recover from its worst postwar recession.
Speakes said the administration expects the unemployment situation to ease sometime next year. The "proper measures are in place" for getting the economy back on its feet, he said. The administration also expects the economy to begin pulling out of the recession sometime next spring.
AFL-CIO President Lane Kirkland called the unemployment report "further evidence that the president's program is not solving, but aggravating, the nation's economic and human crisis."
One of the biggest changes in the November employment picture was a sharp rise in the unemployment rate among adult men, which is traditionally seen by economists as a key barometer of what's happening in the economy. Unemployment among this group jumped from 6.7 percent to 7.2 percent in November, just one-tenth of a percentage point below the post-World War II high.
Unemployment among adult women rose from 7.0 percent to 7.3 percent in November. The rate for blacks and other minorities remained unchanged in November at a record 15.5 percent.
Teen-age unemployment last month hit a record 21.8 percent. The jobless rate among black and other teen-age minorities dropped slightly from 42.9 percent in October to 41.3 percent in November. The unemployment rate for white teen-agers rose from 17.6 percent in October to 19.3 percent in November.
At the same time, overall employment continued to decline. Norwood said the ratio of the number of people with jobs to the population as a whole dropped to its lowest level in four years last month.
"Additional deterioration of the labor market occurred in November," she said. "The deterioration, which set in this summer, has accelerated in the last two months."
The nation's blue-collar workers continued to be among the hardest hit by the recession. The Labor Department reported that most of the November increase in unemployment occurred as the result of layoffs, and that two-thirds of the employment decline last month occurred in the durable-goods industries within manufacturing.
This also was reflected in a continued drop in the average manufacturing workweek, an indicator that normally signals economic trends. The factory workweek dropped one-fifth of an hour between October and November to 39.3 hours and has fallen by 5 percent since July.
The Labor Department reported that the only significant job gains last month occurred in the service and mining sectors of the economy. Overall, however, the job picture was not bright.
"In each of the last two months, employment increases occurred in less than one-third of the 172 industries included in the BLS index of diffusion," Norwood said. "In prior months, at least half of these industries has recorded gains."
Norwood said employment in retail trade increased less than expected in November as retailers hired fewer extra people for the pre-Christmas period.
In other areas, the Labor Department reported unemployment in construction was unchanged at 18.2 percent. The Commerce Department reported earlier this week that new home sales in October increased 15 percent to an annual rate of 360,000 homes.