Other industries showed little change last month, including wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, leisure and hospitality, information, and government. Amid these job losses, wage growth for retail workers was a paltry 1.1 per cent before inflation, far worse than the national average.
The labor force participation rate, or the share of working-age Americans who are employed or at least looking for a job, held at an 11-month high of 63 percent in March.
The year began with a burst of hiring - 238,000 jobs added in January and 235,000 in February, along with solid pay growth.
Look past the ugly headline numbers, though, and something good is happening.
The unemployment rate dropped to 4.5 percent, the lowest since May 2007, from 4.7 percent in February. The central bank reasoned that the USA was near "maximum employment", meeting one of its mandates.
But it's worth remembering that employment in manufacturing is now at 1941 levels. Yet at the same time, the unemployment rate fell to its lowest level in almost a decade.
March marked the fourth month in a row that Canada has added jobs, the latest sign the economy is recovering from a prolonged slump caused by low oil prices.
While the bigger establishment survey showed fewer jobs created last month, the smaller and more volatile survey of households showed employment increased 472,000.
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Businesses adding full-time work over part-time jobs "tends to suggest they are very confident about the foreseeable future for their businesses", Duguid said.
With less slack in the labor market, the focus will turn to wages, which should rise as workers gain more bargaining power.
For Hispanic and Latino workers, unemployment fell to a 10-year-low of 5.1 percent.
Stock futures, which had been flat, pointed to a sharply lower open after the report.
"There is just no stopping Canadian jobs gains, which once again broke through market expectations", Brian DePratto, senior economist at TD Economics, wrote in a note to clients. By comparison, February was unseasonably warm. Yet many analysts said the tepid figure was likely just a blip.
Last month's weakness in hiring may point to sluggishness in the economy, but unusual weather might also have been a factor. As a result, economists polled by MarketWatch had estimated the number of new jobs created in March would taper off to 185,000.
Tucker noted that the overall new jobs figure - 98,000 - is a net amount and doesn't account for job type or quality, which means the US could have potentially lost 100,000 jobs in one sector while gaining 198,000 in another.