Total nonfarm payroll employment in the United States fell by 701,000 in March, and the unemployment rate rose to 4.4%, data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) showed on Friday, April 3.

“The changes in these measures reflect the effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and efforts to contain it,” the BLS wrote, noting that employment fell mainly in leisure and hospitality, as well as in social assistance, business services, retail trade, and construction.

In March, the unemployment rate increased by 0.9 percentage points, to 4.4%, representing the largest over-the-month increase in the rate since January 1975. In February, the rate was only 3.5%, the lowest in a half-century.

The number of unemployed people rose by 1.4 million to 7.1 million in March, data showed.

The number of unemployed people who reported being on temporary layoff more than doubled in March to 1.8 million, and the number of permanent job losers increased by 177,000 to 1.5 million.

However, federal government employment rose by 18,000 in March, reflecting the hiring of 17,000 workers for the 2020 Census.

In March, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased 11 cents to $28.62. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by 3.1%.

The BLS reported that the labor force participation rate was at 62.7% in March, a decrease of 0.7 percentage point over the month.

Total employment fell by 3.0 million to 155.8 million, and the employment to population ratio, at 60.0%, dropped by 1.1 percentage points over the month.

Before the March report, job growth had held strong since February 2019, and the unemployment rate also held steady between 3.7% and 4% for more than a year, according to Daily Caller.