Unemployment rate spikes to 8.5%, a 25-year high, as 663,000 jobs lost in March.
5.1 million jobs have now been lost since the beginning of 2008.
By Chris Isidore, CNNMoney.com senior writer
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - Job losses continued to mount in March and unemployment hit a 25-year high, according to the government's latest reading on the battered labor market Friday.
Employers trimmed 663,000 jobs from their payrolls last month, roughly in line with forecasts of a loss of 658,000 jobs, according to economists surveyed by Briefing.com.
For the first three months of the year, 2 million jobs have been lost, and 5.1 million jobs have been lost since the start of 2008.
To put the three-month loss in context, if no more jobs are lost over the next nine months, 2009 would still be the fourth worst year for job losses since the government started tracking the number of workers in 1939.
March's monthly loss is up slightly from the loss of 651,000 jobs in February, although it's less than the number of jobs lost in January. That figure was revised up to a loss of 741,000 jobs - which now stands as the biggest monthly drop in 59 years.
The unemployment rate climbed to 8.5% from 8.1% in February, in line with economists' forecasts. It was the highest since November, 1983.