US job growth slowed sharply in March amid continued layoffs in the retail sector, but a drop in the unemployment rate to a near 10-year low of 4.5 percent suggested the labor market was still tightening.
First quarter employment gains were comparable to the previous quarter but much higher than at the start of 2016.
The unemployment rate dropped to 4.5 percent in March, the lowest since 2007.
However, the unemployment rate fell from 4.7% to 4.5%, the lowest level in nearly a decade, defying forecast for an unchanged reading.
There was some mildly good news for wages: they increased by 5 cents in March after rising 7 cents in February, coming to an annual growth rate of 2.7 percent.
In the past three months, employers have added an average of 178,000 jobs, roughly the same as last year's solid pace.
March's slowdown is likely due to weather and seasonal factors, however, and not necessarily an overall slowdown in growth. The figure was well off the 219,000 positions created in February.More news: Suspect in Facebook video killing shoots himself to death
The number of people working and the unemployment rate are determined based on a survey of households, while the job-creation figures are calculated from payroll records provided by employers.
London's unemployment rate has fallen for the second straight month.
"No one should be obsessed with a single jobs report", says Megan Greene, chief economist at Manulife Mutual Funds.
The difference largely comes down to the number actively seeking work. Employment declines included 800 in mining and logging, 1,300 in manufacturing, 3,100 in trade, transportation and utilities, 600 in financial activities, 1,100 in professional and business services and 900 in leisure and hospitality. During most of his period, wages remained flat.
It was an off month for the labor market as struggling retailers employ fewer workers.
That summary hides a varying trend during that time: unemployment was relatively low for most of Labour's stint, but rose considerably during the recession in the late noughties. Education and health care services added the fewest jobs for that category in 15 months.