The nation lost another 651,000 jobs in February as non-farm payroll employment continued to fall sharply, pushing the unemployment rate rose from to 8.1% from 7.6% the month before, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reported Friday. Payroll employment has declined by 2.6 million in the past 4 months, and more than four million jobs have been lost since the recession began.

The losses were worse than expected. Economists forecast a February unemployment rate of 7.9%.

The Labor Department's companion Household Survey data showed an ever larger rise in unemployment, with the number of unemployed persons increased by 851,000 to 12.5 million in February. The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) increased by 270,000 to 2.9 million.

The construction industry lost another 104,000 jobs in February as employment dropped sharply in both the residential and non-residential sectors, the Labor Department said. Employment in the industry has fallen by1.1 million since peaking in January 2007. Two-fifths of that decline occurred over the last 4 months.