Stocks fell on Wall Street Friday after the government reported U.S. employers added the fewest jobs in nine months in March and more people gave up looking for work.

The Dow Jones industrial average ended 40.86 points lower at 14,565.25. The index was down as much as 171 points in the early going but later reclaimed much of its early loss.

U.S. employers added just 88,000 jobs in March, according to the Labor Department. That's half the pace of the previous six months. The report was far worse than economists had forecast and a disappointment for investors following positive signs on housing and the job market over the winter.

The survey, a closely watched indicator of the economy, dented investors' confidence that the U.S. is poised for a sustained recovery. The stock market has surged this year, pushing the Dow to another record high close on Tuesday. The index is still up 11.2 percent this year.

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"Things are still looking decent," said Brad Sorensen, Charles Schwab's director of market and sector research, but "we're watching to see: is this the start of another soft patch?"

The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 0.43 percent to 1,553.28. The Nasdaq composite fell 0.65 percent to 3,203.86. -- AP