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U.S. consumers are the main engine of growth not only in the U.S. economy but in much of the world. They have been spooked by the unprecedented jump in joblessness in recent months, which has sent consumer confidence to record lows.

While every group of workers has been hit by massive layoffs, the recession has been particularly hard on the most vulnerable groups: young workers and minorities. Teenage unemployment soared to 21.6 percent last month, while the rate among Hispanics increased by 1.2 percentage points to 10.9 percent.

One reason unemployment grew so quickly last month is that nearly 500,000 workers surged into the labor force looking for jobs even as employers were eliminating another 350,000 positions, according to the department’s household survey.

The total of unemployed persons in the United States now stands at 12.5 million out of a labor force of 154.2 million workers.

“No sector or population group is spared by this ugly recession,” said Harm Bandholz, economist at Unicredit Markets. “Unfortunately, there is no end in sight for the labor market slump. In light of the ongoing recession, empty order books and no hope for a quick turnaround, firms will continue to lay off workers on a large scale.”