The number of jobs axed was the biggest figure since March 2003
US employers cut 159,000 jobs in September, the most in more than five years, Labor Department figures show.
The data also showed the nation's unemployment rate was steady at 6.1% as more workers were added to the ranks of the unemployed than analysts predicted.
The figures mark the ninth month in a row that the economy has lost jobs.
Meanwhile, revised figures show that employers cut 73,000 jobs in August, slightly less than the 84,000 originally estimated.
But the job losses in July turned out to be a bit deeper - 67,000 versus the 60,000 previously reported.
The number of jobs axed in September was the largest amount since March 2003, when the labour market was still reeling from the 2001 recession.
"The employment figures were weak in every important dimension," said Pierre Ellis, senior economist at Decision Economics in New York.
"We've seen weaker data in history, but these look pretty decisively to be the beginning of something worse. Employment declines were widespread and large."
Manufacturers shed 51,000 jobs, construction companies cut 35,000 jobs, retailers lost 40,000 posts, business services axed 27,000 positions and financial services slashed 17,000 jobs.
There were also 17,000 posts cut in the leisure and hospitality sector.
The number of jobs being shed outstripped hiring gains by the government in education, health and other sectors.