The Labor Department reported that there were 196,000 jobs added in March, above the consensus expectation of 177,000. This marked the 102nd consecutive month of job growth. The latest three-month average is 180,000, less than last year’s 223,000 monthly average but still strong and consistent with more modest growth anticipated for 2019.
January was revised up from 311,000 to 312,000 and February was revised up from 20,000 to 33,000. Combined, employment gains in January and February were 14,000 more than previously reported. Monthly revisions result from additional reports received from businesses and government agencies since the last published estimates and from the recalculation of seasonal factors.
In March, employment in health care rose by 49,000. In the past year, health care has added 398,000 jobs. Notably, manufacturing employment fell by 6,000 positions after having seen steady growth of 22,000 positions on average over the past 12 months.
The unemployment rate held steady at 3.8% in March. A broader measure of unemployment, which includes those who are working part time but would prefer full-time jobs and those that they have given up searching—the U-6 unemployment rate—remained at 7.3%. This was the lowest rate since 2000.
Average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose in March by four cents to $27.70. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by 3.2%, down from 3.4% last month. For 2018, the year over year pace was 3.0% and in 2017 it was 2.6%.
The labor force participation rate, which is a measure of the share of working age people who are employed or looking for work fell to 63.0% in March from at 63.2% in February, very low but up from its cyclical low of 62.3% in 2015. The low rate at least partially reflecting the effects of an aging population.
This report, in combination with other recent data on economic activity, will support the Fed’s recent position of pausing interest rate increases.