By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) - The U.S. economy lost a total of 701,000 jobs in the month of March amid layoffs and business closures prompted by the novel coronavirus, according to data released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Unemployment rose to 4.4% from 3.5% in February, the largest month-on-month increase since January 1975.
The huge jump in unemployment was fueled by major hits in the leisure and hospitality sectors of the economy with nearly 460,000 jobs lost in those sectors alone, according to the bureau's statistics.
Other sectors that took major hits include health care and social assistance, professional and business services, retail trade, and construction.
But the data may indicate just the initial blow from the virus as it includes just the first half of March, likely before many states began instituting increasingly tough measures meant to keep people at home and that shuttered non-essential businesses.
The April jobs reports will be released May 8, and expectations are that the figures will be increasingly grisly.
The U.S. is the country with the most recorded coronavirus infections with the figure sitting at 245,601, according to data being compiled by Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.
That is over double the number of the second-most cases recorded in Spain, which has 117,710 infections.
The novel coronavirus first originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December and has since spread to 181 regions or countries as national governments grapple with how to contain its spread.