The Bureau of Labor Statistics announced Friday in its regular monthly employment situation report that the USA economy generated 98,000 new jobs in March, 89,000 in the private sector, 9,000 in the public sector. Also, construction companies reported huge job gains in January and February, when the weather was unseasonably warm, so they didn't need to engage in their usual spring hiring.
The most recent county numbers are for February and show an unemployment rate of 7.6 percent, down slightly from the previous month's 7.8 percent unemployment.
Average hourly earnings increased 0.2% month-on-month and 2.7% year-on-year, still near a post-recession high. Many analysts expect that trend will result in average monthly payroll gains of about 170,000 this year, down from 187,000 last year and 226,000 in 2015.
Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had projected an increase of 180,000 jobs. It all added up to a picture of confident employers and ample opportunities for job applicants with the right qualifications. Minutes from the Fed's mid-March meeting showed most policymakers expected to start reducing the Fed's US$4.5 trillion bond portfolio later this year. "The unemployment rate was down to its lowest level in nearly a decade". In the first three months of this year, job gains have averaged 178,000 per month.
The PayScale Index, which measures the change in wages for employed USA workers, forecast 3.2 percent year-over-year wage growth for Q1 2017.
The US central bank lifted its overnight interest rate by a quarter of a percentage point in March and has forecast two more hikes this year. More Hispanics began looking for jobs, and many found them.
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How did the unemployment rate manage to drop so much when the job gain was so weak?
The unemployment rate, which is calculated from a different survey, fell to 4.5% from 4.7%, the Labor Department said Friday.
Statewide, the jobless rate of 4 percent in February was down from 4.1 percent a year before, representing 4.27 million in the civilian workforce and about 169,000 looking for jobs. That lowered the year-on-year increase in wages to 2.7 percent.
The Labor Department highlighted job growth in the professional and business services and mining sectors, which added 56,000 jobs and 11,000 jobs, respectively. Retailers slashed their payrolls by almost 30,000 after cutting about 31,000 jobs in February.
In March, businesses added 89,000 jobs.
"There is just no stopping Canadian jobs gains, which once again broke through market expectations", Brian DePratto, senior economist at TD Economics, wrote in a note to clients.