NEW YORK, April 3 (Xinhua) -- U.S. stocks finished lower on Friday after the world's largest economy released a disastrous employment report for March amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 360.91 points, or 1.69 percent, to 21,052.53. The S&P 500 decreased 38.25 points, or 1.51 percent, to 2,488.65. The Nasdaq Composite Index fell 114.23 points, or 1.53 percent, to 7,373.08.
Ten of the 11 primary S&P 500 sectors ended lower, with utilities down 3.62 percent, leading the laggards. Consumer staples rose 0.54 percent, the only gainer among the groups.
U.S. employers cut 701,000 jobs in March, and the unemployment rate soared to 4.4 percent, showing the first job decline in a decade, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday.
"The changes in these measures reflect the effects of the coronavirus and efforts to contain it," the bureau said.
The unemployment rate surged by 0.9 percentage point to 4.4 percent, which is the largest over-the-month increase in the rate since January 1975, the report noted.
"The March employment report was supposed to be a 'before' number. Mandatory lockdowns all went into effect after the survey," Chris Low, chief economist at FHN Financial, said in a note on Friday while commenting on the newly-released U.S. jobs data.
The jobs data came after a report showed a shocking number of Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week.
In the week ending March 28, U.S. initial jobless claims hit 6,648,000, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Thursday. The figure easily topped the 3.3 million initial jobless claims announced a week earlier, which at the time was the largest number ever recorded.
The number of COVID-19 cases in the United States has topped 266,000 as of Friday afternoon, with over 6,900 deaths, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.