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Slow employment gains in March as only 103,000 jobs added to U.S. economy

"If we begin to see signs that momentum is truly slowing in coming months," said one analyst, "that’s more worrying."

by Lucy Bayly /  / Updated 
Employees work at the Metal Box International toolbox factory in Franklin Park, Illinois, on Feb. 21.Tim Aeppel / Reuters file

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Job growth stumbled in March, with only 103,000 Americans finding new jobs, according to data released Friday by the Department of Labor.

The number was a marked change from February's blockbuster figure of 313,000 new jobs — which the Bureau of Labor Statistics just revised upwards to 326,000. That total was attributed to unseasonably warm weather creating favorable conditions in sectors such as construction and hospitality.

March's figures were well below analysts' expectations and not strong enough to push the unemployment rate below 4.1 percent, where it has remained for the last six months.

Wages continue to be the outlier in the employment data, with hourly earnings posting a moderate gain to 2.7 percent annual growth.

That figure would have to reach 3 percent in order for the Federal Reserve to consider taking action against possible inflation.

Despite March’s disappointing numbers, the employment situation remains robust and represents the longest streak of monthly jobs gains on record.

"Over the first quarter, hiring averaged 202,000, which is above the average for all of last year," said Bankrate.com senior economic analyst, Mark Hamrick. "If we begin to see signs that momentum is truly slowing in coming months, that’s something different, more worrying."

Wall Street reaction to the BLS data was muted, with markets already under pressure following President Donald Trump’s announcement late Thursday that he planned to impose $100 billion of additional tariffs on Chinese imports.

"Risks appear to be rising in both the short and long-term," said Hamrick. "If tariffs were fully implemented, they would have the potential to raise inflation risks, making the Federal Reserve’s job more challenging. Meantime, even under a better case scenario, a high degree of uncertainty has been injected into the business environment — which is never a plus."

 Employees work at the Metal Box International toolbox factory in Franklin Park, Illinois, on Feb. 21. Tim Aeppel / Reuters file

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