The US economy added just 88,000 jobs in March, well below expectations, according to figures released today that raise fears that the recovery is stalling in the world's most important market.
This was well below the 200,000 new jobs expected by analysts.
The unemployment rate was little changed at 7.6 per cent, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Employment grew in professional and business services and in health care but declined in retail trade.
Marcus Bullus, trading director at MB Capital, said the figures were a "major blow to not just the US but the global economy".
"Until the US economy can add jobs consistently, policymakers won't be able to relax. We're back on red alert."
However there was positive news from previous months, with the change in total non-farm employment for January revised upwards from 119,000 to 148,000, while the change for February was also revised upwards from 236,000 to 268,000.
Analysts suggest the slowdown in job growth could make policymakers at the federal reserve more confident about continuing a bond-buying stimulus program.
The drop in the workforce meant the share of the US population that is either employed or looking for work is just 63.3 percent, its lowest since 1979.