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Economy added 196,000 jobs in March, bouncing back after dismal February data

Economic growth is expected to slow this year as the impact of President Donald Trump's fiscal stimulus plan begins to fade.
Image: Senior man in his shoe repair shop.
Improved economic conditions and higher wages are bringing people off the sidelines and back to work, including older Americans.Fran Polito / Getty Images file

The economy added 196,000 jobs in March, beating analyst predictions and bouncing back after a dismal February report of just 20,000 job gains.

The unemployment rate remained steady at 3.8 percent, still the lowest level in almost 50 years, but wages increased by 0.14 percent for the month and 3.2 percent year on year.

The March employment data, released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, had been hotly anticipated by Wall Street and economists, who are training their eyes on any sign that a recession is ahead.

While the economy gained an average of 225,000 jobs a month last year, the February jobs report set off alarm bells — despite assertions from the White House that the number was a fluke due to the five-week-long partial government shutdown and weather-related issues. Analysts had been predicting 175,000 jobs gained for March.

February's employment figure, which the BLS revised slightly upward to 33,000 on Friday, contributed to rising concerns about whether the Federal Reserve should rein in interest rates. The Fed raised its benchmark borrowing rate four times last year, drawing ire from President Donald Trump, but has so far indicated no further hikes in 2019.

"A good March report shows that February was more of an outlier than a canary in the coal mine," said Steve Rick, chief economist at CUNA Mutual Group.

Economic growth in the U.S. is expected to slow this year as the wider global economy cools and the impact of Trump's $1.5 trillion fiscal stimulus plan begins to fade. A monthslong trade war between the U.S. and China continues to weigh on global economic growth.

“The growth is losing the momentum that we had hoped for pretty much across the globe," said International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde earlier this week, noting that the global economy is in “a delicate moment."

“The U.S. is not immune to the deceleration anymore,” she said.