A job slowdown that appears milder by comparison

Hiring slowed sharply in March and April, raising fears that the economy is sputtering for the third year in a row. But this year's slump is an improvement over last year's and 2010's.

Consider:

— Hiring slid to an average 135,000 a month in March and April from the December-February pace of 252,000 a month.

— In 2011, job growth came in below 100,000 for four straight months from May through August. The average was 80,000 jobs a month.

— In 2010, the economy lost jobs for four consecutive months — from June through September. The average loss was 76,000 a month.