US employment growth slashed in half for March; could delay Fed rate hike

Washington (Apr 4)  With the unemployment rate holding steady at 5.5 percent, the number of new jobs created in March across the U.S. was up only 126,000 jobs from February. That’s less than half the average 269,000 jobs added monthly over the previous 12 months, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics monthly employment report.

"It’s disappointing but not discouraging," said Jeffrey Kravetz, regional investment director for U.S. Bank Wealth Management. "The weather played a factor, the port slowdown on the West Coast hurt, and the low prices in energy caused job cuts."

While Arizona March data are not available until Apr. 16, for purposes of scale, Arizona alone added nearly 30,000 jobs in February. Across the U.S., the number of unemployed, both those recently out of work and the long-term unemployed, changed little in March from the previous month. The same flatline applied to the involunarily underemployed -- those working part time, multiple jobs, or at a lower experience level in order to be working.

"These numbers are out of sync with the rest of the economic data," Kravetz said. "I don’t think it’s going to change the attitude of the (Federal Reserve Board) towards rate increases. The Fed is poised to raise rates, but this may push it out further."

Business and professional services topped the new job count adding 40,000 new workers, more than its 34,000 per month trend during the past three months. Health care added 22,000 jobs and retail added 26,000 for the month.

Construction, manufacturing, logistics and wholesale changed little, while mining -- which includes oil and energy -- lost 11,000 workers in March, a direct result of plummeting oil prices.

Source: bizjournals