Washington — Employers added a modest 120,000 new jobs in March, ending a streak of solid job gains in the prior three months and raising fresh questions about the strength of the economy and hiring momentum in coming months.
The nation's jobless rate inched down to 8.2% from 8.3% in February, the Labor Department said Friday, but that came amid a shrinking labor force in which more people dropped out of the job market and thus weren't counted as unemployed.
Analysts were expecting growth of about 210,000 jobs in March, after gains of more than 220,000 in each of the prior three months. Some of those earlier gains may have been influenced by the unseasonably warm weather, so the latest slowdown could have been in part due to a kind of payback for the inflated payrolls in the winter.
Retailers shed 34,000 jobs last month, most of them at department stores and other general merchandise outlets. Most other sectors added jobs in March, but at a slower pace.