After adding more than 200,000 jobs in each of the first two months of this year, the U.S. economy gained only 98,000 jobs in March, according to the monthly report released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
That result falls short of expectations: While analysts had anticipated a slight dip to around 180,000 new jobs, they had been looking for signs that job growth would keep pace with recent gains.
Unemployment fell to 4.5 percent from 4.7 percent, the Labor Department agency says. That’s the lowest rate since May 2007.
In addition to the data for March, the BLS also stripped nearly 40,000 jobs from its previous estimates for January and February, revising its findings for those months from 238,000 to 216,000 for January and from 235,000 to 219,000 for February.
Average hourly earnings continued a recent rise for employees on private nonfarm payrolls, increasing by 5 cents to $26.14. That follows a 7-cent increase in February. For private-sector production workers and employees who aren’t in supervisory positions, the average hourly wage rose to $21.90 — a 4-cent gain.
“Over the month, employment growth occurred in professional and business services (+56,000) and in mining (+11,000), while retail trade lost jobs (-30,000),” the BLS says.
The agency adds that the health care sector stayed on its positive trend, adding 14,000 jobs in March.
In the first three months of 2017, the BLS says, “health care added an average of 20,000 jobs per month, compared with an average monthly gain of 32,000 in 2016.”