"We need to focus on the causes of the economic downturn in order to reverse this trend in job creation. We intend to continue our aggressive efforts to restore health to our credit and housing markets," she said.

US stock markets fell in opening trading on Friday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Index plunging 167.97, or 2.01 per cent, in the first hour of trading to 8,208.27 points. 

Oil prices and the dollar weakened, and US treasury bond prices rallied after the data was released.

'Urgent' measures

President-elect Obama said there were no
quick fixes to end the crisis [AFP]
After the figures were released, Barack Obama, the US president-elect, called for "urgent" measures to put people back to work and to stimulate the economy.

"There are not quick or easy fixes to this crisis, which has been many years in the making, and it's likely to get worse before it gets better," he said.

"But now is the time to respond with urgent resolve to put people back to work and get our economy moving again.

"The 533,000 jobs lost last month - the worst job loss in 34 years - is more than a dramatic reflection of the growing economic crisis we face.

"Each of those lost jobs represents a personal crisis for a family somewhere in America."

Shock statistics

November's job losses were the steepest since December 1974, when 602,000 jobs were shed.

October's loss was also revised to show a cut of 320,000 - originally given as a 240,000 loss - while September's drop was revised to 403,000 from 284,000.

The total reduction in US non-farm payrolls for the past three months was 1.256m, with almost two million lost in 2008 so far.

Service-providing businesses shed 370,000, or two-thirds, of the total number of jobs axed in November, after a loss of 153,000 jobs in October.

The unemployment figures show that the crisis in the labour market has shifted from the goods-producing sectors of the economy to the services sector, which delivers almost 80 per cent of US output.

Richard Yamarone, chief economist at Argus Research in New York, said the data proved the economy had collapsed "and has gone into a free fall."