Economy Watch: Economy Adds Just Short of 100K Jobs in March

A decline in retail employment was a key factor that kept job growth low in March, with the sector losing 30,000 jobs for the month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

The U.S. economy showed relatively modest job growth in March, adding a net of 98,000 jobs for the month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday. Also, January and February’s gains, while still robust, weren’t quite as much after all: January was revised down from 238,000 to 216,000, and the change for February was revised down from 235,000 to 219,000.

One factor keeping the net gain for March low was a decline in retail employment, as a number of retailers contracted. All together, reported the BLS, retail trade lost 30,000 jobs for the month. Retail employment has contracted by 89,000 jobs since a recent high in October 2016.

On the other had, professional and business services, which tend to spur the use of office space, gained 56,000 positions, which is more-or-less in line with that average gains of the last 12 months. There were gains in services to buildings and dwellings (property management, for instance), as well as architectural and engineering services, which bodes well for the property sector.

Construction employment was only up a little, at a net of 9,000 new jobs. Employment in construction has been trending up since late last summer, largely among specialty trade contractors and in residential building.

The U.S. unemployment rate declined 0.2 percentage points to 4.5 percent in March, the bureau said. The more expansive U-6 unemployment rate, which also includes people only marginally attached to the labor force, plus those employed part time who want to work full time, dropped from 9.2 percent in February to 8.9 percent in March.