Job losses in the United States rose by 598,000 in January - the most since December 1974.
The Commissioner of Labor Statistics says total job losses since the start of the recession in December 2007 is 3.6 million. Nearly half were in the past three months.
The unemployment rate is now 7.6% - its highest level since September 1992. The rate was 4.9% a year ago.
Factory jobs were hardest hit, followed by the construction and retail sectors.
Only education and health services and the government sector added jobs.
Meanwhile, in Canada, unemployment has reached 7.2%, after 129,000 jobs were shed in January. The figures were much worse than expected.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said it's "going to be a very difficult year for Canada."
Spain and France have also reported significant rises in unemployment.
In Spain, nearly 200,000 people lost their jobs in January. Spain has the highest unemployment rate in the European Union at 14.5%.
In France, unemployment rose to 7.9% for the same period. In Britain, it is more than 6%.