TOKYO, Japan (CNN) -- Japanese exports tumbled to record lows in February, the government said Wednesday.
Exports fell 49.4 percent last month, compared with February 2008.
Japan, the world's second-largest economy, relies heavily on exports such as cars and electronics. But the global recession has slowed consumer demand in the United States, a major market, forcing Japanese companies such as Honda, Toyota, NEC and Hitachi to lay off thousands of employees in recent months.
Shipments to the United States plummeted 58 percent last month, while those to Europe tumbled 54 percent, the Japanese government said.
The country's economy is forecast to shrink by 5.8 percent in 2009.
CNN's Kyung Lah contributed to this report.