US unemployment held steady at 9.1 per cent for August and was virtually unchanged since July. The Bureau of Labor Statistics said the number of unemployed was 14 million, including 6 million who have been out of work for more than half a year.
The figure reflects the persistent sluggishness of the US economy. On Thursday, the government projected that unemployment would stay at about 9 per cent through to the end of 2012, and only start declining in 2013.
Markets have experienced more than a month of high volatility, in response to fears of recession and government debt woes in the US and abroad.
The blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 253.31 points, or 2.2 per cent, to 11,240.26. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 Index lost 30.45 points, or 2.53 per cent, to 1,173.97. The technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite dropped 65.71 points, or 2.58 per cent, to 2,480.33.
For the week, the Dow lost 0.39 per cent, and the S&P dipped 0.24 per cent. The Nasdaq was flat, with an increase of 0.02 per cent.
The US currency gained against the euro to 70.4 euro cents from 70.01 euro cents on Thursday. The dollar slipped against the Japanese currency to 76.8 yen from 76.88 yen.//DPA