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The U.S. added only 20,000 jobs last month — the slowest growth since September 2017 and well below the 180,500 new positions economists projected.

That update from the U.S. Labor Department weighed on investor sentiment before the market opened, setting up a potentially rough end to the week for Wall Street.

The increases, however, were enough to keep alive the streak of monthly job gains that started in October 2010. And the unemployment rate, which is based on a different survey, declined to 3.8 percent from 4 percent.

Department stores shed a seasonally adjusted 9,000 jobs during the month, to employ 1.1 million, while employment at apparel and accessories was flat at 1.4 million.

Retailers from J.C. Penney Co. Inc. to Gap Inc. have ramped up store closings this year as they seek to right size their businesses in an ever-more digital world and to be ready for any economic slowdown that might come.

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