The US economic slowdown hit hiring by companies and government authorities last month, with just 160,000 net new jobs created, the lowest level this year, the Labor Department reported Friday.
The overall unemployment rate held at 5.0 percent in April, and wage growth picked up pace to 2.5 percent year-on-year, a possible sign of continuing firming in the jobs market.
The jobs growth figure was well below expectations and pointed to the impact of the sharp slowdown of the US economy to a 0.5 percent growth rate in the first quarter of the year. Analysts had expected a modest slowdown from March to about 207,000 jobs.
Job growth numbers for the previous two months were also revised lower, by a total of 19,000 positions.
The data suggested that gains from the prior two months suggesting the jobs market was pulling back and absorbing a large number of long-time dropouts were possibly overstated.
The number of people not in the labor force surged by 562,000 last month, and the labor force participation rate fell by 0.2 percentage point to 62.8 percent, giving up recent gains.
Hiring in April was virtually flat in the construction sector, which had added 41,000 new jobs in March. The mining sector, including coal, oil and natural gas, continued to bleed jobs.
The retail trade, a strong contributor to growth in the past year, also shed about 3,000 jobs -- possibly the consequence of slowing consumer spending.
But hiring remained strong in health care and hospitality sectors, and in professional services.