April 3 (UPI) -- The U.S. economy shed more than 700,000 jobs during the month of March and ended a decade-long streak of labor growth, the Labor Department said Friday in its monthly jobs report.
The department totaled March's losses at 701,000 and said the unemployment rate rose almost a full point from a historic low to 4.4 percent.
The greatest drop in employment was reported in the leisure and hospitality industry, which shed nearly 460,000 jobs for the month, the report said. Those losses came mainly in bars and restaurants forced to closed under health restrictions imposed nationwide.
Other declines were also seen in healthcare and social assistance sectors, as well as in professional and business services, retail trade and construction.
The department said the losses were almost entirely a result of the global heath emergency.
Last month, the national unemployment rate was 3.5 percent, the lowest in a half-century.
"The unemployment rate increased by 0.9 percentage point to 4.4 percent. This is the largest over-the-month increase in the rate since January 1975, when the increase was also 0.9 percentage point," the department said in its report. "The sharp increases in these measures reflect the effects of the coronavirus and efforts to contain it."
Many analysts believe April's numbers will better reflect the whole of the coronavirus impact.
"There's no avoiding a substantial rise in the unemployment rate, likely eclipsing the 10 percent level during the Great Recession," Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate.com, told NBC News.
"The real, unanswerable question at this point is how many of these jobs come back after social distancing guidelines are relaxed and businesses reopen. We hope for the best but brace for the worst."
Thursday, the department reported that a record 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week.