By The Associated Press
The shares of many staffing companies sank Friday following a weak U.S. jobs report that painted a picture of a sputtering economy.
The Labor Department said that U.S. employers added just 88,000 jobs in March, the fewest in nine months and a sharp retreat after a period of strong hiring.
The unemployment rate dipped to 7.6 percent, the lowest in four years, as many people stopped looking for work. People who are out of work are no longer counted as unemployed once they stop looking for a job.The report, which is considered the most important economic indicator each month, also said that hiring in March and April was considerably weaker than originally thought. It was unwelcome news on the stock market as some investors saw it as a sign that the economy is heading into a weak spring. It also set a particularly bad tone for staffing companies, which rely on an overall appetite for hiring to succeed. While most investors saw it as bad news for staffing companies, BMO Capital Markets analyst Jeffrey Silber saw some positive signs in the report for some staffing firms. He noted that seasonally adjusted temporary jobs rose 6.4 percent for March from the prior year. The analyst said that slow and steady employment growth should be good for temporary staffing, suggesting that sluggish job growth overall could increase the reliance on temporary workers. Here's a look at how some staffing company shares fared Friday: AMN Healthcare Services Inc.: Down 2.5 percent to $14.42. On Assignment Inc.: Down 3.2 percent to $23.57. ManpowerGroup Inc.: Down 3 percent to $53.38. Robert Half International Inc.: Down 3 percent to $35.40.