The US economy produced a disappointing 126,000 jobs in March, half of what was expected and the worst month since December 2013, the Labor Department reported Friday.
The department also trimmed 69,000 from the two previous months, dimming the picture for the world's largest economy after a year that averaged 287,000 new hires a month across the country.
The huge service sector remained solid, generating a net 142,000 new positions last month, according to data the Labor Department collects from establishments.
But layoffs especially by the oil industry and manufacturers, as well as by governments, dragged the overall total down for the month.
The jobless rate, based on a separate survey of households, held at 5.5 percent, still 1.1 percentage points down from a year ago.
Average hourly wages, an indicator of how tight the jobs market is, rose by 7 cents to $24.86 after coming in flat last month. The year-on-year rise was 2.1 percent, ahead of inflation.