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Unemployment stays at 5.5 percent in March

The U.S. economy added a lackluster 126,000 jobs in March and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 5.5 percent.

The U.S. economy added a lackluster 126,000 jobs in March and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 5.5 percent, the Department of Labor reported today.

Employment continued to grow in professional and business services, health care and retail trade, but the job gain was the smallest since December of 2013.

Reuters reported that the weak March increase in payrolls ended 12 months of job gains above 200,000, which had been the longest streak since 1994. Data for January and February were revised to show 69,000 fewer jobs created than previously reported.

“There’s really no way to sugarcoat this: This is a soft print all the way around, no matter how you slice it,” Omair Sharif, rates sales strategist at Newedge USA LLC in New York, told Bloomberg. “It seems that it’s corroborating that the U.S. definitely hit a soft patch in the first quarter.

“Hiring just took a breather in the month of March. I wouldn’t read this as anything other than that. We should get back on track in the second quarter,” he said.

The government said the number of long-term unemployed — people who have been jobless for 27 weeks or longer — was little changed at 2.6 million in March. Those people accounted for 29.8 percent of the unemployed. During the past 12 months the number of long-term unemployed has declined by 1.1 million.

The civilian labor force participation rate was little changed at 62.7 percent in March, the government said. Since April 2014 the participation rate has remained within a narrow range of 62.7 percent to 62.9 percent.

The government said the number of people employed part time for economic reasons — sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers — was little changed in March, at 6.7 million. Those people, who would have preferred full-time employment, were working part time because their hours had been cut or they were unable to find a full-time job.

In March, 2.1 million people were marginally attached to the labor force, little changed from a year earlier, the government said. The data are not seasonally adjusted. Those people were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months.

They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the four weeks that preceded the government’s survey.

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