The United States Bureau of Labour Statistics said that its labour market lost 701,000 jobs in March, pushing the official unemployment rate up to 4.4 per cent, from 3.5 per cent.
However, the data does not reflect the full extent of February losses. The report brings to an end about 10 years of non-farm payroll job gains.
The report came in higher than expected, even as analysts cautioned that the survey data is largely based on the first half of March.
Many more jobs were also lost in the second half of the month owing to the coronavirus shutdowns.
The last weekly data reports from the U.S. Department of Labour showed 10 million people filed for unemployment insurance in the last two full weeks of March.
This indicated that the real unemployment rate had likely slipped into double digits.
As the coronavirus pandemic has spread, governments have actively been shutting down sectors of the economy to help stem the contagion.
Some 90 per cent of U.S. people are estimated to now be living under some form of stay-at-home orders, with many non-essential businesses closed.
Congress passed economic stimulus meant to help cushion the blow, with small business loans to become available starting Friday.
The Treasury promising people will also begin to receive cash infusions within two weeks. There are also improved unemployment benefits.
Data for January was revised downward by 59,000 but still showed some 214,000 jobs gained, while February’s number ticked ever so slightly upward.