US employers cut back on hiring in April and that hammered the financial markets.
Just 115,000 workers were added to US payrolls last month.
It was the third straight month in which hiring slowed, and added to worries that the recovery in the world’s largest economy is losing momentum.
The unemployment rate eased lower to 8.1 percent of the workforce, but that was due to Americans giving up on looking for work.
It was bad news for President Barack Obama who is counting on an improving economy to help him get re-elected.
Hours after the figures were released Obama said he would urge Congress next week to implement “common sense ideas” to accelerate job growth.
“We’ve got to do more if we’re going to recover all the jobs lost in the recession,” he said.
His Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, repeatedly has accused Obama of doing too little to foster job growth.
House Republican Speaker John Boehner called the report “more evidence President Obama’s policies aren’t working for families and small businesses, and aren’t creating enough jobs to get our economy back on track.”
Stock market indexes tumbled in reaction, as did crude oil prices.
Basic resources companies and carmakers were the among the worst performers in Europe.
Even before the release of the US payrolls numbers European bourses were under pressure from weak eurozone economic data.
Sunday’s French and Greek elections, in which voters could elect anti-austerity governments thereby threatening to de-rail Europe’s debt plan, also encouraged a sell off of shares before the weekend.