US adds just 98K jobs; unemployment falls to a low 4.5 pct

The drop in the unemployment rate, however, tells a somewhat better story.

He said that particularly was true for western Oklahoma counties, mentioning a few that had seen their unemployment rates drop by almost 2 percent in that time.

Analysts in a Reuters poll had forecast 5,000 new positions and said the jobless rate would increase to 6.7 percent from 6.6 percent in February. It was the lowest gain since May 2016 and one of the lowest of the 8-year-old recovery, but the seasonally adjusted net gain still marked the 78th consecutive month of overall job growth. A survey on Wednesday showed a measure of services sector employment falling to a seven-month low in March. Add that up with the 38,000 in downward revisions for January and February, and the job creation picture looks much less rosy than assumed over the first quarter of the year.

Nationally, the unemployment rate decreased to 4.5 percent in March as the US added 98,000 jobs in the healthcare, mining and professional and business service industries, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

And it reported that average hourly earnings rose 0.2 per cent in March from February and have risen 2.7 per cent over the past 12 months.

As The New York Times notes, "the headline number for hiring and the unemployment rate are derived from separate surveys by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, one of establishments, the other of households". The employment increase included a paltry 6,000 gain in construction jobs and 11,000 in manufacturing after both sectors showed big gains in January and February. The employment-population ratio has edged up over the year, while the labor force participation rate has shown no clear trend. That number was 4.7 percent for the same month past year and 4.3 percent in January.

The unemployment rate slid to 4.5 percent from 4.7% - its lowest rate since May 2007.

February's growth was also revised down to 219,000 from 235,000 previously. Employment gains in leisure and hospitality (+4,000), educational and health services (+3,900), trade, transportation, and utilities (+2,000), and professional and business services (+100) surpassed losses in financial activities (-400), information (-300), and other services (-100).

Retailers including JC Penney and Macy's have announced thousands of layoffs as they shift toward online sales and scale back on brick-and-mortar operations.

Ontario's economy is bucking the trend by adding more full-time jobs instead of a surge in part-time work as predicted by experts, said Economic Development and Growth Minister Brad Duguid.

Businesses have been ordering more high-cost manufactured good since fall, a reflection of stepped-up investment.

Calgary's unemployment rate declined once again in March but remained the highest in the country, according to Statistics Canada.

The rest of Europe, as well as Japan, is reporting faster growth, and China is stabilizing after fears about its outsize debts roiled markets past year.

  • Leroy Wright