The U.S. unemployment rate hit 8.5 percent in March, a 0.4 percentage-point rise on the loss of 663,000 jobs in a month, statistics released by the Labor Department indicated. Since the recession set in in December 2007, the nation has lost 5.1 million jobs, the report said.
"Over the last several days, what we've been grappling with is an economic crisis that is unlike anything we've seen since the '30s," Obama said during a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at Baden-Baden, Germany. "(Obviously), this is hitting the United States hard ..."
As of March, 13.2 million Americans were listed as unemployed, a 5.3 million increase over the past 12 months.
"The Labor Department continues to actively support workers during this difficult time," Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said. "We have provided billions of dollars to increase the level of unemployment benefits and extend their duration."
Solis said the department also provided states with $7 billion in incentives to expand the reach of unemployment insurance and distributed $4 billion to increase the opportunities for worker training."