Japanese Finance Ministry officials say the nation's exports saw a nearly 50 percent decline in February from the previous year, the country's sharpest slide in more than two decades.

Exports tumbled 49.4 percent last month from a year earlier as deepening recessions in the United States and Europe cut demand for Japanese electronics and cars.

According to Japan's official statistics, shipments to the United States, Japan's biggest auto market, tumbled 58.4 percent from last year, while exports to EU countries were down 55 percent.

Economists say it is unlikely that Japan's exports will recover soon. Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso is compiling his third stimulus for the country as some of its biggest companies from Toyota to Panasonic fire thousands of workers.

Last month's drop is the largest since the Japanese government began keeping comparable data in 1980.

The record plunge puts Japan on course for its worst recession since World War II.

In the last quarter of 2008, Japan's economy logged its worst performance in 35 years as its economy shrunk at an annualized pace of 12.1 percent.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP