US employers add just 98K jobs, as rate falls to 4.5 pct

US weekly jobless claims post largest drop in almost two years

U.S. weekly jobless claims post largest drop in almost two years

On Friday, the Labor Department will release its broadest snapshot of the jobs market.

The Labor Department said Friday the unemployment rate fell to 4.5% in March but the USA economy added just 98,000 jobs, missing the 180,000 forecast. But economists are already calling it a one month "blip".

Last month's weakness in hiring may point to sluggishness in the economy, but unusual weather might also have been a factor. And a snowstorm that slammed into the Midwest and East Coast in mid-March likely further curtailed job growth, says economist Jim O'Sullivan of High Frequency Economics. That's the longest such stretch since 1970, when the US population was much smaller. Stephen Poloz, the bank's governor, said on March 28 that the economy had a lot more room to grow, with higher unemployment and more excess capacity than the United States. It's very low and shows the US economy has mostly recovered to pre-crisis levels. As a result, an alternative gauge of unemployment, which includes those part-timers as well as people who have given up their job hunts, dropped to 8.9 percent. In March, retail lost 29,700 jobs. Over the year, average hourly earnings have risen by 2.7 percent, slightly lower than the 2.8 percent growth in the previous month.

A bright spot is that workers are starting to get substantial raises as businesses want to keep their best workers happy. In February, the wage gain was 2.8 percent compared to a year earlier.

Still, wage growth needs time to recover as does the share of workers employed so household incomes can recover to their 1999 peak.

Financial services are up by 178,000 positions, boosted by the hot housing market as much of the gain was in real estate and credit intermediation. Most of the layoffs were in the retail, telecommunications and education sectors.

That's up from 5.7 per cent for the same month a year ago, even though, at 46,900, there were 500 more people working last month. Those jobs tend to come with good paychecks and benefits. On March 1, he went full-time at Hoffmann Tool & Die, a machine shop outside Philadelphia. Bankruptcies and store closings continue to plague retailers, who face stiff competition from online retailers such as Amazon. The private service-providing sector added 36,100 jobs.

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