WASHINGTON, April 5 (UPI) -- The U.S. unemployment rate edged down to 7.6 percent in March on a gain of only 88,000 jobs, the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday.
The jobless rate was 7.7 percent in February.
The number of new jobs is the lowest in 10 months and less than half of what economists had predicted. The consensus forecast called for 200,000 new jobs.
The department said the number of unemployed people was little-changed at 11.7 million, but the declining unemployment rate with so few jobs created points out that many more people have quit job-hunting than there are people finding work.
The size of the labor force declined by 496,000 in March. The labor force participation rate also slid, falling 0.2 percent to 63.3 percent.
The unemployment rate swells to 13.8 percent when "adults who are discouraged and quit looking for work and part-timers, preferring full-time positions" are taken into account, said Peter Morici, economics professor and columnist at the University of Maryland.
The department said the bulk of new jobs in March -- 51,000 of them -- were in professional and business services, which have added 533,000 jobs in 12 months.
The construction sector added 18,000 jobs in March while healthcare added 23,000, the department said.
The average workweek rose by 0.1 percent but the average workweek in manufacturing fell 0.1 percent.
Average hourly earnings for all workers was up by 1 cent to $23.82, the report said.
Over 12 months, average hourly earnings have climbed 1.8 percent, a 42-cent gain.