Ethan Harris at Bank of America said most American companies are lean and mean, and their fiscal austerity is braking an otherwise improving economy and delaying growth.

The labor force participation rate, fell to 63.3 percent, the lowest since May 1979.

Wal-Mart merchandise is piling up in aisles and in the back of stores because of insufficient employees to keep shelves stocked. Wal-Mart added 455 US stores while its U.S. workforce dropped 1.4 percent.

Russell Price at Ameriprise Financial said the big weakness in March was retail, and this was the coldest March in over a decade.

Alan Krueger of the White House Council of Economic Advisers said sequestration will hurt the economy, and cited the CBO estimate of 750,000 lost jobs by year-end.

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