Losses lengthen after March jobs data jolt

Applicants line up for the opening of the job fair held by Hartsfield Jackson Airport in Atlanta on March 27

Applicants line up for the opening of the job fair held by Hartsfield Jackson Airport in Atlanta on March 27

America's job market slowed in March, but unemployment remained at its lowest level in 17 years while wage growth picked up, suggesting that the economy remains fundamentally healthy. The revisions reduced the net gains for the two months combined by 50,000. Oregon's unemployment rate is also 4.1 percent, and has been near that historically low level for more than a year.

Goods-producing employment rose by 15,000 jobs during the month, as gains in manufacturing led by adding 22,000 jobs in March.

The Labor Department released its official hiring and unemployment figures for March on Friday morning, providing the latest snapshot of the American economy. March was the 90th consecutive month of job gains, extending the longest streak on record.

In February, employers added a blockbuster 313,000 jobs, the largest monthly gain in 18 months. That figure is still impressive, economists say, given that the nation is in its ninth year of economic expansion and the labor force is growing much more slowly than it was before the recession.

The Fed's policymakers signaled at that meeting that a total of three rate increases were likely this year. After a hiring spree in February, the construction and retail sectors let go of more people than they brought on board in March. Economists did not see an impact on hiring in the near-term from a recent stock market selloff, which has caused a tightening in financial conditions. But its durability has been broadly beneficial.

On the corporate front, fashion retailer Urban Outfitters Inc (NASDAQ:URBN) dipped 1.5% to US$37.99 in pre-market trading after it was announced that David McCreight, the chief executive officer and president of the retailer's Anthropologie unit, would leave the company at the end of this month.

Wage growth remained muted, with average hourly earnings rising 2.6 percent.

His pay for sitters has increased from $10 to $12 an hour, mostly to keep up with raises at retailers and fast food restaurants.

For example, a rising number of working-age Americans have begun looking for a job and finding one, reversing a trend from the first few years after the recession when numerous unemployed grew discouraged and stopped looking for work.

Worries about tariffs haven't dampened the need for workers, Frankiewicz said, but they could be keeping pay down. Macroeconomic Advisers, a consulting firm, forecasts that the economy grew at just a 1.4% annual rate in the January-March quarter - less than half the 2.9% annual pace of the October-December quarter.

Businesses have stepped up their spending on manufactured goods, helping lift factory output.

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