NEW YORK — Wall Street plunged again Friday after the government's much-anticipated employment report showed weaker-than-expected job growth and a rise in the unemployment rate. The Nasdaq composite index, also pummeled by a downgrade of Intel Corp., skidded more than 3.5 percent, while the Dow Jones industrials fell more than 1.5 percent.

The Labor Department's report that employers raised payrolls by only 18,000 and that the nation's unemployment rate rose to its highest level since November 2005 unnerved investors, who worried that a weakening job market will hurt consumer spending.

A better-than-expected economic reading on the nation's service sector briefly pulled stocks off their lows but wasn't enough to shake investors' concerns.

Investors had been awaiting the jobs report for weeks as they tried to determine whether the economy would continue to benefit from robust consumer spending even as sectors like home construction, mortgage writing and manufacturing slow. Wall Street is concerned that areas of weakness could puncture growth and even tip the economy into recession if consumers can't depend on a solid job market.

According to preliminary calculations, the technology-focused Nasdaq fell for the sixth straight session and showed its steepest percentage decline since a market pullback on Feb. 27 last year. The Nasdaq declined 98.03, or 3.77 percent, to 2,504.65, in part after the downgrade of Intel Corp., but also because its smaller-capitalization components are seen as more vulnerable in an economic slowdown.

The Dow fell 256.54, or 1.96 percent, to 12,800.18, while the Standard & Poor's 500 index declined 35.53, or 2.46 percent, to 1,411.63.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies fell 23.44, or 3.14 percent, to 721.57.