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The U.S. economy bled 159,000 jobs last month, the highest level in over five years, and the ninth consecutive month of declines, as employers continued to cut payrolls in the weakening economy.

Economists had expected a more modest 105,000 decline in nonfarm payrolls, according to


, though they were on target with unemployment expectations, with the rate holding steady at 6.1% in September.

Job cuts were spread throughout the economy, with the manufacturing, construction and financial services industries cutting about 138,000 jobs combined. The employment picture also showed a continuing trend of a weaker consumer, with retailers and leisure and hospitality companies cutting tens of thousands of positions as well. The health care sector, with a gain of 17,000 jobs, was the one bright spot in the report, as has been the case for many months.

Revised figures for the previous two months showed that firms cut fewer jobs in August than initially believed -- 73,000 rather than 84,000 - but shed 67,000 jobs in July, which was higher than the preliminary figure of 60,000.

September's report likely showed the effects of job cuts announced earlier this year by major companies, including financials like



, airlines like American Airlines parent



and car makers like







Last month, major cuts were also announced by