Gold futures ended a volatile trading session with a modest loss Friday after the government reported the biggest drop in nonfarm payrolls in five years, signaling the U.S. economy might already be in a recession.

Gold for April delivery fell $2.90 to end at $974.20 an ounce on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

On Thursday, gold fell $11.40 to end at $977.10 an ounce.

The jobs numbers point to more of a recession scenario than the commodities complex would like in order to enjoy a continuation of their recent run, said Jon Nadler, senior analyst at Kitco Bullion Dealers.

Also, the dollar is perking up so that has put a damper on today's ascent towards $1,000 gold, Nadler said.

The Labor Department reported that U.S. non-farm payrolls fell by 63,000 in February, the second straight decline in employment. It was the largest drop in payrolls since March 2003, and analysts said this is the clearest sign yet of a recession.

Nadler also said that a rise in the U.S. dollar has also put a damper on today's ascent towards $1,000 gold.

In currency trading, the dollar dropped to three-year lows against the yen, but the greenback was relatively steady against other major counterparts.

Platinum for April delivery tumbled $159.10, or 7 percent, to $2,041.70 an ounce on Nymex. The drop came after South Africa, the world's biggest platinum producer, said it will give miners another 260 megawatts of power supply over the next two weeks to ease shortages that threaten to curb output and cut jobs.

Also on the Nymex, June palladium fell $34.20 to end at $495 an ounce. May silver edged down 2 cents to $20.25 an ounce.

May copper gained 2 cents to end at $3.92 a pound.