New economic data show unemployment could be worsening in the private sector and manufacturing activity shrinking for a 14th consecutive month.

A report released Wednesday by U.S. payroll firm ADP says private sector job losses rose to an estimated 742,000 in March from 706,000 in February. Analysts had expected private sector layoffs to decline in March to about 663,000.

ADP says U.S. companies slashed their payrolls across all sectors of the economy in response to a deepening recession. The latest U.S. government jobs report showed the unemployment rate jumped in February to a 25-year high of 8.1 percent.

Meanwhile, U.S. manufacturing industry group ISM says factory activity contracted again in March, but at a slower pace than the previous month.

The Institute of Supply Management says its manufacturing index rose to 36.3 in March from 35.8 in February. A reading below 50 indicates a contraction in the sector.

In another development, U.S. media say the Obama administration may force General Motors into bankruptcy to transform the struggling auto giant into a competitive business.

The reports say such a move would involve quickly selling off GM's best assets to form new companies.

On Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama gave GM 60 days to come up with a new restructuring plan if it wants more government aid to survive the economic crisis. He rejected the automaker's previous plan as insufficient.

U.S. automakers GM and Chrysler have received more than $17 billion in government loans and have requested another $21 billion. The third major U.S. carmaker, Ford, has not asked for government help.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.