America's jobless rate rose for the first time in 11 months to 8.2 percent in May.
The U.S. also only added 69,000 jobs, the lowest in a year and far fewer than the 150,000 expected.
The latest economic numbers sparked fresh fears for investors, sending the Dow plunging.
The first three months of the year saw slower than estimated growth mainly because governments and consumers spent less, and businesses were a little slower to restock their supplies.
The number of people who applied for unemployment benefits rose to a five-week high last week, and a survey of private companies showed only a modest increase in hiring last month.
Mario Sparciano has been out of work since march.
"I put in so many applications online, in person, and it is like, 'Oh, we just hired somebody,' or it's, 'Well, we found somebody better qualified,'" he said.
The stock market hasn't fared well either. The Dow Jones lost 820 points in May, the worst showing since May 2010.
The debt crisis in Europe also continues to concern investors. Many nations in the European Union are in danger of collapse.
"Today it's not just about what's going on with the U.S. economy and this jobs number; it's that Europe is a basket case," Aaron Task, with Yahoo! Finance, said.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney called the new government figures "devastating news."
"It seems like we've been moving backwards. We can do so much better in America," Romney said.
Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, agreed.
"It's pretty clear that the American people are hurting," he said. "Small businesses continue to avert hiring any additional people and it's clear the policies that we've seen are not working."
In a White House blog, the Obama administration said the problems in the job market were long in the making and won't be solved overnight.
Since the Great Depression, no president has gone after re-election with unemployment as high as the current numbers. Past incumbents have lost when the unemployment rate was on the rise.