The economy added a seasonally adjusted 88,000 jobs last month -- the smallest increase since last June -- and nearly half-a-million people stopped looking for work last month, according to data issued by the Labor Department Friday. The unemployment rate fell a tick to 7.6% from 7.7%, marking the lowest level since December 2007, but the decline stemmed from more Americans dropping out of the labor force. The participation rate, a measure of how many healthy people of working age who have a job, fell again to 63.3%. That's the lowest level since the spring 1979.
The March jobs report fell well below Wall Street expectations. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast a 195,000 increase in jobs. U.S. stocks futures slumped after the report.
Employment gains for February and January, however, were both revised higher and people who do hold jobs put in more hours, Labor said Friday. The number of new jobs created in February was revised to 268,000 from 236,000, while January's figure was revised up to 148,000 from 119,000.
In March, the biggest increase in hiring in March occurred in professional services (51,000) and health care (23,000). Retailers and government trimmed employment.
Average hourly wages edged up 1 cent to $23.82, reducing the 12-month increase to 1.8%. The average workweek rose 0.1 hour to 34.6, a sign that workers are putting in more overtime.
The pictures is worse in Canada regarding the labor markets. Canada posts bleak jobs numbers as well, losing 55K jobs in March vs. expectations for a gain of 9K. The unemployment rate climbs to 7.2% vs. 7% expected and 7% previously.