The U.S. economy had a net gain of 98,000 jobs in March, which is much weaker job growth than most economists expected.
Payroll growth was slowed by stormy weather in March after unusually good weather helped growth in January and February, according to economist Jed Kolko, of the job web site "Indeed."
Friday's report from the Labor Department also said the unemployment rate fell two-tenths of a percent, to 4.5 percent. Government data show that is the lowest level since April, 2007. The unemployment rate has been five percent or lower for well over a year.
The slight decline in the jobless rate is due to 145,000 people entering the workforce and nearly half a million Americans finding jobs, according to S&P Global Rating's economist Beth Ann Bovino. She says this is the latest in a series of mostly positive reports on the job market.
PNC Bank economist Gus Faucher says the job market "is getting tighter and business are finding it more difficult to hire." That may force employers to raise wages to attract and keep workers.
Job gains were found in professional and business services and mining, while retail continued to lose positions. Faucher also said problems in retail may reflect a shift from traditional stores to on-line commerce. That shift is evident in the announcement that several major retail chains are closing a large number of stories, according to economist Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
While the report shows that the total number of unemployed Americans fell by over 300,000, there are still 7.2 million people out of work across the country.