The U.S. jobs market rebounded somewhat last month, but retail employment continued to slide.
The economy added 196,000 jobs in March, and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 3.8 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.
The figure will come as a relief after it was reported that employment in February rose by just 20,000. While this has since been revised up to 33,000, it’s still dwarfed by January’s 312,000.
The March job gains were led by a 49,000 increase in health care and a 33,000 rebound in leisure and hospitality. In contrast, retail employment slipped 11,700, with general merchandising stores shedding 7,200 jobs and department stores 2,100.
Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics, noted that while the overall jobs figure for March was an improvement, employment growth is nevertheless on a downward trend — with the three-month average monthly gain dropping to a 15-month low of 180,000.
At the same time, average hourly earnings increased by only 0.1 percent month-on-month, pushing the annual growth rate back down to a three-month low of 3.2 percent.
“Overall, nothing here to shift the dial very far in either direction. But the gradual slowdown in trend employment growth is another sign that the economy is weakening,” he said.