March was another strong month for the US labor market, as jobs and wage growth increased more than expected.
There were 215,000 additional nonfarm payrolls, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ data released Friday.
But job losses continued in the manufacturing and mining sectors, which have been hurt by the drop in energy prices and the dollar’s strength.
Manufacturing jobs fell 29,000 to the lowest level in this economic cycle.
Job gains were strong in retail, construction, and healthcare.
The unemployment rate ticked up a bit to 5% from 4.9%.
Average hourly earnings rose 0.3% from February’s and 2.3% compared with the same period last year, beating forecasts.
These days, well into the recovery, the focus has shifted to employment metrics that have not done so well in this cycle, including the labor-force participation rate.
The active portion of the US economy’s labor force grew for a fourth straight month, as the rate rose to 63% in March from 62.9%.
An abundance of job openings is drawing people into the labor force at a near-record rate. The job gain for February was revised to 245,000 from 242,000.
“Stronger labor force growth helps boost potential growth while keeping inflation pressures at bay,” Renaissance Macro’s Neil Dutta wrote in a client note Thursday. “That’s exactly the kind of situation the Fed should want right now.”
The participation rate fell to a 38-year low of 62.4% in September. Because it is driven largely by demographic shifts, some economists are forecasting that its rise may not be sustained.
Stock futures remained lower after the release of the report, with Dow and S&P 500 futures down 0.5% near 8:53 a.m. ET.
Via Bloomberg, here’s what Wall Street forecast:
- Nonfarm payrolls:+205,000
- Unemployment rate: 4.9%
- Average hourly earnings month-on-month: +0.2%
- Average hourly earnings year-on-year: +2.2%
- Average weekly hours worked: 34.5