U.S. employers hired at the slowest pace in nearly a year in March, adding only 88,000 jobs to non-farm payrolls, with steep job cuts in the retail and government sectors, including 12,000 at the U.S. Postal Service, according to a Labor Department report released Friday.
Economists predicted March’s net gain to be somewhere closer to 190,000, according to a Bloomberg survey.
Unemployment fell to 7.6 percent in March from 7.7 percent in February, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said. But that was mainly due to 496,000 people leaving the labor force completely. The labor-force participation rate — the percentage of people eligible to be working or looking for work — fell to 63.3 percent, the lowest since 1979. Had that number simply held stable, the unemployment rate might have been higher
Non-farm payrolls have grown by 504,000 jobs in the first three months of the year, or 168,000 per month, just enough to keep up with the natural growth of the labor force and keep unemployment from rising. February’s top-line number was revised up to 268,000. Together, revisions to January and February added 61,000 jobs — the one thin silver lining in an otherwise dismal report.