Updated from 9:05 a.m. EST

U.S. stocks staged a lackluster open Friday, after the Labor Department announced that the economy lost more than half a million jobs in November, an even more dire result than had been anticipated.


Dow Jones Industrial Average

fell 77 points to 8299, and the

S&P 500

gave back 9.2 points to 836. The


stumbled 14 points to 1432.

During the previous outing, stocks sold off in the final hour of trading as uncertainty about a Congressional bailout for the automakers and worries about the Department of Labor's upcoming employment number had investors running for the exits.

The announcement of corporate layoffs from such large firms as


(T) - Get Report



(DD) - Get Report



(VIA) - Get Report

further contributed to selling pressure.

Before the new session's trading commenced, the government reported that the

unemployment rate

reached a 15-year high of 6.7% in November, up from 6.5% in October but slightly below the 6.8% analysts had expected. Nonfarm payrolls showed a loss of 533,000 jobs, a much greater decline than the drop of 335,000 forecast by economists.

The September and October job-loss figures were also worse than previously thought. The September number was revised to 403,000 from 284,000, and October job losses were up to 320,000, up from an initial reading of 240,000.

The average workweek declined slightly to 33.5 hours, and hourly earnings were up 0.4%, compared with a 0.3% increase in October.

"This is almost indescribably terrible," wrote Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist for High Frequency Economics, in an email. He said that total job losses in the past six months have now reached 1.55 million, a figure that matches the entire recession of 2001.

Traders were also training a keen eye on the automakers. CEOs from

General Motors

(GM) - Get Report



(F) - Get Report



are again slated to appear before lawmakers in hopes of striking a bailout deal. Sticking points on the package have included the source of funding, concessions the automakers should make and how much money they should get.

In other company news,

The Wall Street Journal

said airplane manufacturer


(BA) - Get Report

may face additional delays for its 787 jet.


Merrill Lynch


shareholders voted Friday to approve a merger with

Bank of America

(BAC) - Get Report


Separately, insurer


(HIG) - Get Report

increased its 2008 earnings guidance to exceed Wall Street's consensus estimate. Shares were soaring early on the news.

Shifting to commodities, crude oil was shedding 90 cents to $42.77 a barrel. Gold was falling $14.20 cents to $751.30 an ounce.

Longer-dated U.S. Treasury securities were falling in price. The 10-year was losing 16/32 to yield 2.61%, and the 30-year was down 26/32, yielding 3.08%.

Overseas, European exchanges such as the FTSE in London and the DAX in Frankfurt were trading lower. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei closed with losses, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng ended with gains.