The Labor Department reported Friday the economy shed 263,000 jobs in September - up more than 30 percent from the previous month.
The layoffs pushed the national unemployment rate to 9.8 percent -- its highest level since June of 1983.
Separately Friday, the government reported U.S. factory orders fell in August by the largest amount in five months led by a 43 percent decline in demand for commercial aircraft, a category that rose 98 percent in July.
The reports fueled a Wall Street sell-off that began on Tuesday, and the Dow settled Friday with a weekly loss of 175 points.
Despite this week's developments, President Obama said his $787 billion stimulus package and other efforts have broken the nation's "economic freefall," though he acknowledged the labor market isn't improving. While unemployment is typically a lagging indicator of economic recovery, Republicans countered that continued job losses are evidence that the stimulus effort has been an expensive failure.
And so it goes in Washington, where partisan rhetoric flows on everything from the economy to health care, to climate change legislation. And there was movement on the latter front this week when Senate Democrats put a new spin on "Cap-and-Trade."
Lead 1 Cap&Trade Sen
As an overhaul of the nation's health care system churns its way through the U.S. Senate, lawmakers introduced new legislation this week aimed at capping emissions linked to global climate change. The bill, proposed by Democratic Senators Barbara Boxer and John Kerry, would overhaul federal environmental regulations and establish new standards for greenhouse gas emissions. The bill calls for a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2020 and an 80 percent cut by mid-century.
Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts: "We introduced this legislation because of one word: security. Economic security, energy security, national security.
America knows that that is the battle that we face right now, and the fact is that what is in this bill provides an ability for America to get back into the driver's seat and take back control of our own security and take charge of our future."
The Senate Climate Change bill echoes a similar measure passed by a narrow margin in the U.S. House this summer. But some terminology has changed.
The practice of limiting emissions and allowing polluters to buy or sell permits known as "Cap-and-Trade" in the House bill becomes the phrase "Pollution Reduction and Investment" or PRI in the Senate bill. According to supporters of the measure, the PRI term better represents the bill's goal of reducing pollution and reinvesting tax revenues into renewable sources of energy. But Republican opponents slammed the bill this week as little more than "fancy, complicated words for high-cost energy."
Democrats countered the criticism by pointing towards measures in the bill containing "green job" stimulation and energy efficiency promotion for American consumers.
Reaction from farm country was lukewarm at best as the President of the National Farmers Union said the bill "fails to address the unique role agriculture can play." NFU President Roger Johnson, whose farm advocacy group supported the House climate change measure, criticized the lack of USDA oversight and a limit on domestic carbon offsets in the Senate bill. The Boxer-Kerry proposal also irked some farm groups by ignoring conservation practices like no-till farming.
While neither party appears ready to compromise on domestic climate change legislation, energy policy remains a contentious issue on the worldwide stage.
At the recent United Nations meeting in New York, China's President defended his country's controversial history on environmental and energy regulations.
President Hu Jintao, China: "We should and can only advance our efforts to tackle climate change in the course of development and meet this challenge through common development. It is imperative to give full consideration to the development stage and basic needs of developing countries while we address climate change."
President Obama echoed China's newfound commitment to reduced emissions efforts in pushing for an end to negotiations and the beginning of a global compromise.
President Barack Obama: "Together, China and the U.S. generate some 40 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. Some Europeans are impatient at the U.S.'s failure to put its own proposed targets, in the form of legislation, on the table.
Simply put, it is past time to talk about starting negotiations. It is time to move forward. It is time to show the flexibility and common sense and sense of compromise that's necessary to achieve our goals."
Despite Obama's pledge, a litany of details remain in the lead-up to this winter's global climate meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon (BAHN-KEY-MOON) warned member nations to be prepared for deal-making in December or face political repercussions.
Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General, United Nations: "Failure to reach broad agreement in Copenhagen would be morally inexcusable, economically short sighted, and politically unwise. We cannot go down this road."