In a report that was dramatically worse than market expectations, the U.S. economy shed 23,000 private-sector jobs in March.
Non-farm private payrolls fell 23,000 in March on a seasonally adjusted basis, payrolls firm ADP said.
Investors had expected around 40,000 jobs to be created this month.
March's job losses eased slightly from February, when 24,000 jobs were shed according to a revised figure also published on Wednesday.
Despite the apparently bleak picture, ADP cautioned that the figures may distort the true state of the economy.
The firm said severe winter weather may have again weighed on hiring levels.
"The lack of improvement in employment from February to March is consistent with the pause in the decline of initial unemployment claims that occurred during the winter," ADP said.
"The March employment decline was the smallest since employment began falling in February of 2008," it added.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010