U.S. job growth tops forecasts in March

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The U.S. economy added 215,000 jobs in March, exceeding forecasts, and the unemployment rate ticked up to 5 percent as more Americans began to look for work.

The Labor Department said employment increased in retail trade, construction and health care. There were job losses in manufacturing and mining.

The labor force participation rate, which indicates the share of working-age people employed or looking for work, rose to 63 percent, which Bloomberg said was the highest since March of 2014.

Bloomberg also said the pace of job creation represented a vote of employer confidence in the U.S. economy despite weak global growth.

“We’ve been through some rough patches, but we continue to generate a lot of jobs,” Ward McCarthy, chief financial economist at Jefferies LLC in New York, told Bloomberg. “In a consumer-driven economy, that’s going to keep us headed in the right direction.”

In March, the average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased by 0.3 percent, or 7 cents, to $25.43, after a 2-cent decline in February, the government said. Average hourly earnings have risen by 2.3 percent so far this year.

Reuters said slowing growth globally is likely to keep the Federal Reserve cautious about raising interest rates this year despite job and income gains in this country.

"It was another solid [jobs] report. As far as the Fed is concerned, it doesn’t change anything for them. I think given what we heard this week from [Fed chairman Janet) Yellen ... their focus is elsewhere," Curtis Long, chief economist at the National Association of Federal Credit Unions in Washington, told Reuters.

The number of long-term unemployed — people who have been jobless for 27 weeks or more — was essentially unchanged at 2.2 million in March, the government said. It has shown little movement since last June.

The average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls was unchanged at 34.4 hours in March.

Revised January and February jobs numbers showed in combination that 1,000 fewer jobs were filled during those months than was previously reported.

The number of people who were employed part time in March for economic reasons was nearly unchanged, at 6.1 million, and the government said that figure has shown little movement since November. These people, who would have preferred full-time jobs, were working part time because their hours were cut or because they were unable to find a full-time job.

In March 1.7 million people were marginally attached to the labor force, a figure that was down 335,000 from a year earlier. The data are not seasonally adjusted. These people were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work and had looked for a job sometime during the previous 12 months.

They were not counted as unemployed because they did not search for work during the four weeks that preceded the survey.