NEW YORK – Stocks retreated in early trading Friday after the government said employers cut more jobs than expected last month. Interest rates fell as some investors sought the safety of Treasury notes and bonds.
The Labor Department, which also said the unemployment rate stayed at 10 percent, reported that employers cut 85,000 jobs last month, worse than the 8,000 drop analysts expected.
The report also signals that many jobless people are giving up on their search for work.
The news reminded investors that the economic recovery is likely to be a fitful one. Data from the previous two months was revised to show that the economy generated 4,000 jobs in November, the first gain in nearly two years. But the revisions showed it also lost 16,000 more jobs than previously estimated in October.
A year ago, when the economy was still reeling from paralyzed credit markets and the collapse of several big national banks, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 143 points on news that the unemployment rate had climbed more than expected to 7.2 percent during December 2008. Employers cut 524,000 jobs that month.
In early morning trading, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 41.19, or 0.4 percent, to 10,565.67. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 5.47, or 0.5 percent, to 1,136.22, while the Nasdaq composite index fell 8.02, or 0.4 percent, to 2,292.03.
Interest rates fell and bond prices rose as uneasiness about the economy sent investors looking for the security offered by government debt. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, fell to 3.80 percent from 3.83 percent late Thursday.