WHAT: The unemployment rate jumped to 6.1 percent in August, the highest in nearly five years.
WHY IT’S HAPPENING: High energy prices and problems in the housing and financial sectors have combined to slow economic growth.
WHY IT’S A BAD IDEA: Job losses mean fewer people can afford to pay their mortgage or to spend money on the kind of consumer goods that kept the economy humming for so long.
WHERE TO VENT: A point of debate in the current election is whether a second economic stimulus package is needed to help struggling consumers. The Federal Reserve will also weigh whether to cut interest rates to stimulate borrowing, but inflation fears may prevent dramatic action on that front.