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Jobs growth slows dramatically in March

Jobs growth slows dramatically in March
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The U.S. economy added only 126,000 jobs in March, a much lower number than expected, ending a yearlong streak of monthly gains topping 200,000.

The disappointing figure, the lowest jobs gains in more than a year, is likely to raise questions about the economy's underlying strength. 

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The unemployment rate held at 5.5 percent in March.

The rising economy has been a boon for President Obama and has raised the likelihood that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates later this year. 

White House Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Jason FurmanJason FurmanOn The Money: Five things to know about the August jobs report Dates — and developments — to watch as we enter the home stretch In surprise, unemployment rate falls, economy adds jobs MORE downplayed the low figure, saying he doesn't get too excited when a monthly jobs figure is above or below expectations. He did call on Congress to replace the "sequester," which limits federal spending.

Monthly jobs figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics frequently jump around, and are also routinely revised. 

The March report included downward revisions for the previous two months, suggesting the labor market was not as strong as previously thought.

January’s figure were lowered to 201,000 from 239,000 while February’s number fell to 264,000 from 295,000. 

Cold weather, the surging value of the U.S. dollar and low oil prices were blamed for the lower than expected figure.

Wall Street is closed on Friday, so the American markets won't react immediately to the figure.

A separate ADP report on Wednesday showed that private-sector employers added a less-than-expected 189,000 jobs last month, which spurred some revisions.

Average job growth over the past three months fell to 197,000, down from from an average 300,000 over the previous six months.

Mining lost 11,000 jobs in March. The industry has lost 30,000 jobs this year, many related to oil and gas extraction, after adding 41,000 jobs in 2014.

Despite the rough report for March, a Deloitte survey on Thursday showed that the nation’s chief financial officers remain optimistic about earnings and the pace of hiring through the first three months of the year. 

Wages rose again last month and are up 2.1 percent so far this year.

— This story was updated at 9:49 a.m.