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U.S. job growth slows in March

by Loretta Clodfelter

The United States added 98,000 jobs in March — only the third month in the past three years when the economy added fewer than 100,000 jobs — according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Despite weaker job growth totals, the unemployment rate fell 20 basis points to 4.5 percent in March, while the labor force participation remained 63.0 percent.

The addition of 98,000 jobs was lower than the consensus expectation of 180,000 jobs and significantly lower than the number of jobs added in January and February — though BLS also revised down the job gains in January and February to 216,000 and 219,000, respectively.

The strongest employment categories were professional and business services (up 56,000 jobs), healthcare (up 14,000 jobs) and mining (up 11,000 jobs). In addition, construction added 6,000 jobs in March, following a gain of 59,000 in the previous month.

The weakest employment category was retail trade, which lost 30,000 jobs in March. “The decline in retail jobs highlights the struggles that brick-and-mortar stores are facing as online retailers continue to grab market share,” notes Steve Hovland, director of research at HomeUnion.

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