Stocks fell after the government reported a sharp slowdown in hiring in March that was far worse than economists had expected. The Dow had been down as much as 171 points early in the session, then rose gradually through the rest of the day to ease its losses. US employers added just 88,000 jobs in March, the Labor Department said. The report was a disappointment for investors following positive signs on housing and the job market over the winter. The survey dented investors’ confidence that the nation was poised for a sustained recovery. Tech stocks fell the most Friday. Among decliners, Cisco Systems slipped to $20.61.