The number was much worse than Wall Street analysts had predicted. It was the largest monthly decline since December 1974 and shows just how long and bad this recession is becoming.
Since the start of the year American employers have shed 1.8 million jobs.
The unemployment rate also shot up from 6.5 percent to 6.7 percent, the Labor Department said. It is the highest unemployment rate the country has seen since October 1993.
As the recession deepens and consumers and companies cut back their spending, American businesses are slashing jobs to try to remain profitable. Just about every day, another company announces a big round of layoffs. The latest came yesterday when AT&T said it was eliminating 12,000 jobs, about 4 percent of its work force.
The jobs losses have been very widespread with just about every industry affected. Large layoffs have been seen in manufacturing, construction, financial firms, retailers, travel and leisure and hospitality. Health care remains one of the few fields where jobs are holding their own, if not growing.