US jobs report: March bounces back with 196,000 jobs added

Manufacturing, which has added jobs for 19 consecutive months, lost jobs in March, shedding 6,000 positions

The US added 196,000 jobs in March bouncing back from a sharp drop in February.

The latest figures will be a relief for those concerned that the long economic recovery is running out of steam. But they also contain a worrying wrinkle: manufacturing, which has added jobs for 19 consecutive months, lost jobs in March, shedding 6,000 positions.

The latest figures follow February’s unexpectedly weak jobs report. The US added just 33,000 new jobs in February according to the labor department’s revised figures. Economists have largely discounted February’s slump, blaming cold weather and the US government’s partial shutdown.

The US has now added jobs for 102 months in a row, the longest streak of job creation on record. The unemployment rate at 3.8% is at lows unseen since the late 1960s.

But March’s surprise manufacturing dip may point to trouble ahead. Donald Trump campaigned on a promise to bring back manufacturing jobs to the US. More than half a million manufacturing jobs have been added since his election.

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The pace of hiring has slowed in recent months as the Trump administration’s trade wars rattled the sector. In February, the sector added 1,000 jobs, the weakest number in over a year. In the 12 months prior to February, manufacturing had added an average of 22,000 jobs r a month, according to the labor department.

March’s slump was driven by job losses in motor vehicles and parts, which lost 6,000 jobs. Those falls come as General Motors, the US’s largest automaker, has announced major job cuts.

The news ahead of Friday’s figures was mixed. On Thursday, the labor department reported that the number of people seeking unemployment benefits had fallen to its lowest level since late 1969. But the day before, ADP, the US’s largest payroll supplier, said private businesses had added just 129,000 jobs in March, down from 197,000 in the previous month.

Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, which helps compile ADP’s report, said: “The job market is weakening, with employment gains slowing significantly across most industries and company sizes. Businesses are hiring cautiously as the economy is struggling with fading fiscal stimulus, the trade uncertainty and the lagged impact of Fed tightening. If employment growth weakens much further, unemployment will begin to rise.”


Dominic Rushe

The GuardianTramp

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