Weak job gains cast shadow on U.S. economic outlook

People wait in line to meet a job recruiter at the UJA-Federation Connect to Care job fair in New York in this March 6, 2013 file photo. Credit: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton/Files

People wait in line to meet a job recruiter at the UJA-Federation Connect to Care job fair in New York in this March 6, 2013 file photo.
Credit: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton/Files

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By Jason Lange (Reuters) | Fri Apr 5, 2013 9:20am EDT

WASHINGTON - American employers hired at the slowest pace in nine months in March, a sign that Washington's austerity drive could be stealing momentum from the economy.

The economy added just 88,000 non-farm jobs last month and the jobless rate ticked a tenth of a point lower to 7.6 percent largely due to people dropping out of the work force, Labor Department data showed on Friday.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected a gain of 200,000.

Analysts suspected some of the weakness was due to tax hikes enacted in January. While retail sales data had not shown a big impact earlier in the year, retailers cut staff in March by 24,100.

(Additional reporting by Doug Palmer in Washington and Herb Lash in New York; Editing by Andrea Ricci)
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