The U.S. unemployment rate rose sharply to hit 8.1 percent in February, while the economy had a net loss of 651,000 jobs.
Friday's report from the Labor Department shows the unemployment rate rising half a percent to its highest level in 25 years. The world's biggest economy has lost a total of 4.4 million jobs since the recession began 14 months ago.
U.S. President Barack Obama says the grim jobless report underscores the importance of the economic stimulus package he signed last month. He promoted the plan during an address Friday to police recruits in Columbus, Ohio, who he said may not have had jobs if not for the government's assistance.
The head of the U.S. Labor Department, Hilda Solis, announced a $3.5 billion increase in funds for states to use in education, training, and re-employment services on Friday. The head of the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress, Representative Carolyn Maloney, calls the job losses "gut-wrenching" (very troubling).
Economists interviewed by news agencies say the economic troubles are likely to last through this year and into 2010. The economy has been hurt by companies slashing jobs to save money, falling consumer confidence and tight credit. A report late Friday said the credit crunch may be easing a bit, as consumer credit increased in January after several months of declines.