With the economy sinking faster, employers are giving more Americans dreaded pink slips right before the holidays.

The Labor Department releases a new report Friday that's expected to show the employment market deteriorated in November at an alarming clip as the deepening recession engulfed the country.

After bolting to a 14-year high of 6.5 percent in October, the unemployment rate likely climbed to 6.8 percent last month, according to economists' forecasts. If they are right, that would mark the worst showing in 15 years.

Skittish employers, which have slashed 1.2 million jobs this year alone, probably axed another 320,000 last month, economists forecast. If that estimate is correct, it would represent the deepest cut to monthly payrolls since October 2001, when the economy was suffering through a recession following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Employers are slashing costs to the bone as they try to cope with sagging appetites from customers in the United States as well as in other countries, which are struggling with their own economic troubles.

The carnage — including the worst financial crisis since the 1930s — is hitting a wide range of companies.

Just in recent days, household names like AT&T Inc., DuPont, JPMorgan Chase & Co., as well as jet engine maker Pratt & Whitney, a subsidiary of United Technologies Corp., and mining company Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. announced layoffs.

Fighting for their survival, the chiefs of Chrysler LLC, General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. will return Friday to Capitol Hession might end up matching that or setting a record in terms of duration, analysts say.

The 1981-82 recession was the worst in terms of unemployment since the Great Depression. The jobless rate rose as high as 10.8 percent in late 1982, just as the recession ended, before inching down.

Given the current woes, the jobless rate could rise to as high as 8.5 percent by the end of next year, some analysts predict. Projections, however, have to be taken with a grain of salt because all of the uncertainties plaguing the economy. Still, the unemployment rate often peaks after a recession has ended. That's because companies are reluctant to ramp up hiring until they feel certain the recovery has staying power.