The U.S. unemployment rate rose to 8.5 percent in March from 8.1 percent in February, the government reported on Friday.

The Labor department said employers cut 663,000 jobs. They cut 651,000 in February. The report upwardly revised job losses in January to 741,000.

The U.S. economy has been in recession since December of 2007.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected non-farm payrolls to fall by 650,000.