Employment in the U.S. fell much more than expected in the month of March, according to a report released by the Labor Department on Friday.
The report said employment plunged by 701,000 jobs in March after jumping by an upwardly revised 275,000 jobs in February.
Economists had expected employment to slump by 100,000 jobs compared to the addition of 273,000 jobs originally reported for the previous month.
The much bigger than expected decrease came as employment in the leisure and hospitality sector plummeted by 459,000 jobs, mainly in food services and drinking places.
The Labor Department said notable declines also occurred in health care and social assistance, professional and business services, retail trade, and construction.
With the much bigger than expected drop in employment, the unemployment rate surged up to 4.4 percent in March from 3.5 percent in February. The unemployment rate had been expected to climb to 3.8 percent.
“The 701,000 plunge in non-farm payrolls in March, which is already close to the worst monthly declines seen during the Global Financial Crisis, suggests the coronavirus pandemic started to decimate economic activity even sooner than we had thought,” said Andrew Hunter, Senior U.S. Economist at Capital Economics.
He added, “Moreover, the jobless claims data show that 10 million more workers have lost their jobs since the payroll survey was conducted in the second week of March, suggesting that the unemployment rate, which jumped to 4.4% last month, will soar above 10% soon.”