The Department of Labor released its March employment situation report (link opens in PDF) today, and the news is lackluster at best. Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 88,000, but market analysts were expecting a 193,000 hike after February's revised 286,000 jump.

The unemployment rate dropped 0.1 percentage points, to 7.6%, continuing its recovery decline. But for March, at least, the decrease was due to a 496,000 drop in labor force numbers, rather than an increase in those employed.

Source: Labor Department

In the private sector, health care led gains, with a steady 23,000 bump, while retail trade knocked 24,000 off its payroll after averaging 32,000 new jobs per month for the last six months. The U.S. Postal Service put the squeeze on government employment, falling 12,000 in March.

For those remaining employed, March's hourly earnings numbers leave little reason to celebrate. Analysts had expected a slight 0.2% bump, to $24.29 from $23.82, but earnings increased by #0.01 from February.