US job growth slowed in March, unemployment rate at 4.1%

Job growth in the US slowed in March. Employers added 103,000 jobs, lower than expected.

The US unemployment rate remained unchanged at 4.1% – its lowest level since 2000.

Employment in manufacturing rose by 22,000, health care added 22,000 jobs, in professional and business services employment rose by 33,000, while the construction sector shed 15,000 jobs (after adding 65,000 the previous month).

Cold weather is believed to be one of the reasons for slower job growth in March as well as difficulties employers are beginning to face finding workers because of the low unemployment rate.

The March report from the US Labor Department was viewed by Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst for interest rate tracking website, as being “on the disappointing side”.

Hamrick was quoted by the BBC as saying that “broader context is appropriate, however,” adding that “the job market is widely regarded to be close to full employment.” This would help explain why hiring gains slowed down at this point of expansion.

Employers have been creating new jobs consistently since 2010 – one of the longest periods of job expansion on record. The US economy added an average of 202,000 jobs over the last three months, according to the Labor Department.

The number of long-term unemployed who have been jobless for 27 weeks or more was little changed in March at 1.3 million, accounting for 20.3 percent of the unemployed.

Average hourly wages rose 2.7% year-on-year

Average hourly wages in the private sector rose 2.7% in March from the same month last year to $26.82 – a slight increase compared to the previous month.

Gradual increase in federal funds rate best for stable employment and inflation, says Fed Chair 

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said in a speech in Chicago on Friday that “if the economy continues broadly on its current path, further gradual increases in the federal funds rate will best promote” stable inflation and employment.

He added: “The labor market has been strong, and my colleagues and I … expect it to remain strong.”