US Unemployment Rate At 25-Year High
The US jobless rate reached 8.1% in February - a bigger jump than expected.
According to the US Labor Department, the number of people out of work rose by 651,000 last month. The unemployment rate is the highest since December 1983.
In addition, the number of job cuts in both December and January were revised upwards by more than 160,000.
President Obama said that the number of jobs lost so far in the recession was "astounding".
Speaking in Ohio, he added: "I don't need to tell the people of this state what statistics like this mean," saying that he had signed his economic stimulus package in order to save jobs.
The extra 161,000 jobs added to December and January's figures mean that almost two million jobs have been lost in the past three months.
A total of 12.5 million people are now unemployed in the US.
Economists say that the losses over the past three months are the worst since the end of World War II.
"We're in freefall at the moment and you can't see any sign of improvement here," said Nigel Gault, senior US economist at IHS Global Insight. "These declines are unprecedented. The last time we had three months in a row of job losses over 600,000 was in 1945."
Jobs were lost across a range of employment sectors.
Worst-hit employment sectors in February include factories, which axed 168,000 jobs, and the construction industry, where 104,000 were lost. Professional services shed 180,000 jobs, retailers cut 40,000 and financial companies reduced their payrolls by 44,000. The only areas showing a modest rise in employment were health, education and the government.
Most US commentators expect a deepening slump in gross domestic product in the first half of the year, with stabilisation unlikely until the final quarter at the earliest. "Companies are reducing workers and output in order to bring inventories into line with weak sales," said Greg Thayer, senior economist at Wachovia Securities in St Louis.
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