The U.S. added just 160,000 jobs last month, the Labor Department said Friday. The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 5 percent.
Economists had forecast that the economy would add 200,000 jobs and that the unemployment rate would remain at a low 5 percent, according to data provider FactSet.
Employers had been hiring at a healthy clip for the past six months even as the economy has slowed to an anemic pace.
The economy expanded at just a 1 percent annual rate over the past six months. Weak growth, in the United States and overseas, has led to volatility in financial markets and complicated the Federal Reserve's plans, launched in December, to gradually raise interest rates.
The disparity between growth and hiring has led some economists to question the validity of the government's measure of economic growth.
In the January-March quarter, annualized growth was just 0.5 percent, the weakest in two years. It's become a pattern: Between 2010 and 2015, growth has averaged 0.8 in the first quarter but 2.6 percent in the second through fourth quarters, according to IHS, a consulting firm.
Average hourly earnings rose 8 cents to $25.53 last month; in March earnings rose 6 cents.
There were revisions for February and March: February was revised down by 12,000 to 233,000; March was revised down by 7,000 to 208,000.
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