The latest jobs report Friday showed some disappointing performance, as the Labor Department said that firms added 98,000 positions in March. That’s a far cry lower than the 180,000 that economists had estimated.
At the same time, the data show that the unemployment rate dipped to 4.5 percent from 4.7 percent in February. Average hourly wages were up by 20 basis points. Though it had been expected with the recent 180,000 tally that the pace of hiring would slow from previous reports of 200,000 gains, monthly, the less-than-triple-digit showing in March was in fact the worst report in more than a year. The New York Times reported that hiring numbers might “raise questions about whether improving business sentiment is actually translating into any meaningful action by employers.” In additional evidence that this might be the case, there was a downward revision to the tune of 38,000 jobs to previous reports for both February and March. The revision took February gains to 219,000, down from 235,000 previously, reflecting part of that drop.
Investors might be cheered by the unemployment number, which came in at 4.5 percent and marks the lowest level in just under 10 years. That finding was bolstered by the household estimates of employment gains (which is in fact part of a separate Labor Department survey). The Times noted that this part of the survey may have been impacted by the blizzard seen last month on the East Coast, which ties in to fewer households reporting (and thus adjusting the unemployment figure downward).
Stocks were roughly flat at the day’s half-point of trading.