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Jobs increase falls below expectations in March

Construction job growth drops by 15,000

Total jobs growth in March increased, but far below experts’ expectations, and much-needed construction jobs decreased, according to the latest report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Total non-farm payroll increased by 103,000 in March, according to the report. This is down significantly from ADP and Moody’s Analytics’ predicted increase of 241,000 in March. It is also down from the increase of 313,000 jobs in February.

Capital Economics predicted employment growth was even higher at 250,000 new jobs.

“The modest 103,000 gain in payroll employment in March, which follows a massive 326,000 gain in February, is a good illustration of the inherent volatility in the non-farm payroll data,” Capital Economics Chief Economist Paul Ashworth said. “The March gain was the worst in six months. The February gain was the best in two-and-a-half years.”

The growth that was seen in March can be attributed to an increase in professional and business services, manufacturing, health care and mining.

Here are some of the areas which showed major changes in March:

  • Employment in professional and business services increased 33,000
  • Employment in manufacturing increased 22,000
  • Employment in health care increased by 22,000
  • Employment in mining increased 9,000
  • Employment in retail trade decreased 4,000
  • Employment in construction decreased 15,000

Employment changed little over the month in other major industries, including wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, information, financial activities, leisure and hospitality and government.

One expert pointed out the decrease in construction jobs could be due to this year’s harsh winter.

“The March jobs report was a bit soft, and first quarter GDP growth rate also looks to be weak,” said Lawrence Yun, National Association of Realtors chief economist. “Heavy snow in parts of the country, and the uncertainty related to a potential trade war, may be, as of now, hindering companies from hiring.”

“Although fewer people worked in construction in March because of the unusually cold wintry weather, job openings in the construction industry do remain at a historic high,” Yun said. “If home builders can readily fill those jobs, then home construction significantly ramps up, and thereby brings more housing inventory to the market.”

The average workweek for all employees on private non-farm payrolls remained unchanged at 34.5 hours in March. But while hours worked remained unchanged, the average hourly earnings increased by $0.08 to $26.82 per hour.

The unemployment remained unchanged in March at 4.1% and the number of unemployed persons also remained unchanged at 6.6 million.

“This was a disappointing employment report, with job gains falling below expectations, downward revisions to prior months, and a contraction to the labor force,” said Curt Long, National Association of Federally Insured Credit Unions chief economist. “While this may give the Fed pause as it considers future rate increases, those decisions will be driven primarily by inflation. Based on a broad range of measures, the labor market remains a tight one.”

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