The unemployment rate dipped a tenth of a percentage point to 7.6 percent in March, although hiring slowed to 88,000 jobs, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday, with 11,000 jobs added in accounting and bookkeeping services.

The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for January was revised upward from a gain of 119,000 to 148,000, and the change for February was revised upward from an increase of 236,000 jobs to 268,000.

In March, employment mainly grew in professional and business services and in health care, but declined in retail trade. Both the number of unemployed persons, at 11.7 million, and the unemployment rate were little changed in March, the BLS noted.

Professional and business services added 51,000 jobs in March. Over the past 12 months, employment in this industry has grown by 533,000. Within professional and business services, accounting and bookkeeping services added 11,000 jobs over the month, and employment continued to trend up in temporary help services and in several other component industries.

Job growth in health care continued in March, with a gain of 23,000, similar to the prior 12-month average. Within health care, employment increased by 15,000 in ambulatory health care services, such as home health care, and by 8,000 in hospitals.

Construction employment continued to trend up in March with a gain of 18,000 jobs. Job growth in this industry picked up this past fall; since September, the industry has added 169,000 jobs. In March, employment continued to expand among specialty trade contractors with an increase of 23,000 jobs. Employment in specialty trade contractors has increased by 128,000 since September, with the gain about equally split between the residential and nonresidential components.

Within leisure and hospitality, employment in food services and drinking places continued to trend up in March by 13,000 jobs. Over the past year, the industry added 262,000 jobs.

However, in March, retail trade employment declined by 24,000. The industry had added an average of 32,000 jobs per month over the prior six months, but in March, job declines occurred in clothing and clothing accessories stores, which shed 15,000 jobs, along with building material and garden supply stores (-10,000 jobs), and electronics and appliance stores (-6,000 jobs).

Government jobs also showed losses, with U.S. Postal Service employment falling by 12,000 in March. Employment in other major industries, including mining, manufacturing, wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, information, financial activities, state government, and local government, showed little change over the month.

The White House saw some positive signs in the March jobs report. “While more work remains to be done, today’s employment report provides further evidence that the U.S. economy is continuing to recover from the worst downturn since the Great Depression,” said Alan Krueger, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, in a blog post. “It is critical that we continue the policies that are helping to build an economy that creates jobs and works for the middle class as we dig our way out of the deep hole that was caused by the severe recession that began in December 2007.”

Congressional Republicans, however, saw negative signs in the report. “The President’s policies continue to make it harder for Americans to find work,” said Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, in a statement. “Hundreds of thousands fled the workforce last month and unemployment remains far above what the Obama administration promised when it enacted its ‘stimulus’ spending plan. To help grow our economy and expand opportunity for all Americans, Republicans passed a balanced budget that addresses our spending problem, unleashes North American energy like Keystone, and fixes our broken tax code, and voted to replace the president’s sequester with smarter cuts and reforms. One of the best things President Obama can do is follow the House and outline a balanced budget next week—one that includes entitlement reforms that are not conditional on enactment of more tax increases, which will suppress growth instead of encourage it.”

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