US adds only 98000 jobs in March; Unemployment reaches 10-year low

The U.S. economy grew by 98,000 jobs in March, the Labor Department reported Friday, significantly fewer than economists expected.

One piece of good news from the March job report - the unemployment rate fell to 4.5 percent, which is the lowest it's been in about a decade.

The government said 56,000 jobs were added in professional and business services and 11,000 in mining. In March, 1.6 million people were marginally attached to the labor force, little changed from a year earlier. As a result, an alternative gauge of unemployment, which includes those part-timers as well as people who have given up their job hunts, dropped to 8.9 percent.

The jobs report looked strong even beyond the headline, with gains largely in full-time work and both manufacturing and construction adding employment.

The country lost 2,400 positions in the services sector last month, but added 21,800 factory jobs thanks to the biggest month-to-month surge in manufacturing work since 2002.

With numerous retailers shutting their doors and bankruptcies plaguing the industry, retail was hit the hardest in March, losing 30,000 jobs. In February, the wage gain was 2.8 percent compared to a year earlier.

The unemployment rate dropped to 4.5 percent in March, the lowest since 2007.

In addition to the surprisingly low gains for last month, the bureau also revised its previous calculations for February from 235,000 to 219,000 and for January from 238,000 to 216,000, a combined readjustment of 38,000 downward. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.) Discouraged workers are persons not now looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them.

"Hiring in March was expected to drop after the monthly gains of more than 200,000 in the two previous months, but this marks the weakest showing for the economy in almost a year", writes Nelson D. Schwartz at The New York Times.

The agency adds that the health care sector stayed on its positive trend, adding 14,000 jobs in March.

The unemployment rate decreased by 0.2 of a percentage point to 4.5 percent in March, and the number of unemployed persons declined by 326,000 to 7.2 million. On average, Canadian earners saw their pay increase 1.1 per cent over the a year ago - a period during which consumer prices climbed by about two per cent. It's very low and shows the USA economy has mostly recovered to pre-crisis levels.

  • Zachary Reyes