WASHINGTON (AP) — Today's jobs report may be a sign that the economy is heading into a weak spring.
Even though the unemployment rate slipped from 7.7 percent to 7.6 percent, that's only because more people stopped looking for work. And employers added just 88,000 jobs in March -- less than half the average of the previous six months.
The weakness may signal that companies were worried last month about steep government spending cuts that began on March 1.
But some economists say they expect any weakening of the U.S. economy this spring to be milder than in past years. Paul Ashworth of Capital Economics points out that the nation's housing recovery is "firing on all cylinders."
Today's numbers have sent stocks sharply lower, with the Dow losing more than 170 points in early trading.