The United States saw its steepest unemployment increase in 21 years during October, according to Labor Department statistics released Friday.

National unemployment rose to 5.4 percent last month from September”s rate of 4.9 percent, the biggest one-month jump since May 1980. About 415,000 jobs were eliminated during a period in which suppliers saw demand drop significantly, attributed to the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the growing threat of bioterrorism.

“The numbers I have to say are slightly higher than expected, but will increase pretty steadily from month to month for the next several months and there is reason to believe they will exceed 6 percent,” said Jim Russell, director of equity research at Fifth Third Bank in Cincinnati.

Of the 812,000 jobs lost within the past year, more than half have been lost in the past month.

“Unemployment is something that everyone feels, it”s weighing in on consumer confidence and people are looking over their shoulders wondering, “Will I be the next to go?”,” Russell said.

Current consumer confidence is at a level of 85.5, the lowest since February 1994. Industries posting the heaviest losses for the past month included service and travel industries, such as car rental and hotel agencies.

The Federal Reserve Board, which meets tomorrow, is expected to cut interest rates for the 10th time this year.

George Johnson, a professor in the University economics department, stated that the Reserve Board “will probably continue to lower rates, but they can”t do much more.”

Many students believe this will hinder their chances at finding job after graduation.

“Jobs will be more competitive this year, which will require extra effort on my part to actively search for one,” said LSA sophomore Amy Isaacson. “But, if I was a senior, I would definitely be more worried.”

Graduating seniors are feeling this pressure more than underclassmen.

“It was hard enough finding an internship last summer. I really don”t think it”s going to be any easier to find a job this year,” said LSA senior Dawn Greenberg. “I”m just keeping my fingers crossed and hoping for the best.”

Despite the negative news, economists still have a positive outlook. Forces that could possibly boost the economy are a general trend of economic rebound in the spring and summer, the continual lowering of interest rates by the Federal Reserve Board and a possible military victory in Afghanistan, noted Russell.

“The wildcard to a sustainable economy is a firmer consumer sentiment,” said Russell.

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