U.S. economy added 103,000 jobs in March; unemployment rate stays at 4.1 percent
The labor market keeps tightening, but wage growth is slow
The U.S. economy added 103,000 jobs in March, maintaining a steady track of growth, but wages barely budged, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday.
The jobless rate stayed at 4.1 percent, while average hourly pay grew just 2.7 percent from March 2017.
Robert Frick, corporate economist at the Navy Federal Credit Union, said the numbers reflect a healthy long-term trend — companies have hired an average of 200,000 workers each month this year — but flat wages concern him as the country hits 90 straight months of employment gains.
“In previous expansions, wages were growing by 4 percent annualized,” he said. “We’re in pay cut territory right now.”
Still, analysts say job seekers — the unemployed, the underpaid, those who desire a change — are in great shape, according to Dan North, chief economist at Euler Hermes North America, a credit insurance firm.
There is now a position open for every unemployed person in the country, and the share of the labor force — Americans who are working or job hunting — has crept up this year, too. That’s good news to economists, who want to see the labor force participation rate return to pre-recession levels of about 66 percent. It stood at 62.9 percent in March, slightly higher than January’s 62.7 percent.
The jobless rates held steady in March by age, gender and race.
“It’s a pretty solid economic picture altogether,” North said, though job creation slowed from February’s unusually large burst of 326,000 positions.
Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate.com, said the economy isn’t likely to keep churning out 300,000-plus jobs each month as the labor market keeps tightening. For the last six months, the jobless rate has stayed at 4.1 percent, a 17-year low.