The Labor Department said 131,000 jobs were cut last month, though that was primarily tied to layoff off temporary census workers. The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.5 percent. Economists polled by Thomson Reuters had forecast 65,000 jobs would be cut last month and the unemployment rate would rise to 9.6 percent.
Because of the cuts to census workers, investors were largely focused on private sector jobs, which account for the bulk of jobs in the country. Private employers added just 71,000 jobs, well short of the 90,000 expected by economists.
Persistently high unemployment is the most significant drag on the U.S. economy, and has been a key focus for investors. Even people who are employed have been slowing down their spending, which hurts the economy even more. Economists say that about 200,000 new private sector jobs would need to be added each month in order to drive the unemployment rate lower.
Economic data over the past three months has indicated a slowdown in growth, and investors are unsure just how much more the recovery will weaken. The disappointing jobs data magnifies worries that slowing growth could end up leading the country back into recession during the second half of the year.
Ahead of the opening bell, Dow Jones industrial average futures fell 86, or 0.8 percent, to 10,549. Standard & Poor's 500 index futures fell 9.30, or 0.8 percent, to 1,114.20, while Nasdaq 100 index futures fell 17.25, or 0.9 percent, to 1,883.75.
Investors bid up Treasury prices after the employment report came out, driving interest rates lower in the bond market. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, fell to 2.86 percent from 2.91 percent late Thursday. Its yield helps set interest rates on mortgages and other consumer loans.