March US job growth slower than expected

The U.S. economy added 103,000 jobs in March - 223,000 less than in February, according to data released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed. March's report is also a big slowdown from February and represented the fewest jobs created in six months. The average work week was unchanged at 34.5 hours.

The average hourly wage for private sector workers was $26.82 in March, up 2.7% from a year ago. Macroeconomic Advisers' most recent tracking estimate was 1.5 percent growth; the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta's "GDPNow" forecasting model has it at 2.3 percent.

Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst for interest rate tracking website Bankrate.com, said that the March report from the US Labor Department, looked at in isolation, was "on the disappointing side". The growth has pushed the unemployment rate to its lowest level since 2000.

The return of cold weather and a shortage of skilled workers weighed on hiring at construction sites in March.

With labor market slack diminishing, wage growth picked up a bit in March.

Economists had expected an increase of about 193,000 jobs compared to the jump of 313,000 jobs originally reported for the previous month.

There is hope that wage growth will accelerate in the second half of the year and allow the USA central bank to continue raising interest rates. Economists do not see an impact on hiring in the near-term from the stock market selloff, which has caused a tightening in financial conditions. The economy grew at a 2.9 percent pace in the fourth quarter.

That mainly took place in the final days of the month, however. If this extends for more than a month, it's going to set up some unpleasant expectations for November.

  • Eleanor Harrison