US job creation tumbles in March; unemployment steady at 4.1 per cent

Job creation slowed precipitously or even reversed industrial sectors across the economy, which gave back some of the gains recorded in February's monster hiring spree.
Job creation slowed precipitously or even reversed industrial sectors across the economy, which gave back some of the gains recorded in February's monster hiring spree.PHOTO: AFP/GETTY IMAGES

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Monthly job creation in the world's largest economy tumbled in March to its lowest level in six months, with employers adding only 103,000 net new positions, the government reported on Friday (April 6).

The result was less than a third of the payroll gains in February and far lower than the 175,000 analysts expected.

But the US unemployment rate held steady at 4.1 per cent for the sixth month in a row and wages rose faster than expected.

Job creation slowed precipitously or even reversed industrial sectors across the economy, which gave back some of the gains recorded in February's monster hiring spree.

The slowdown in hiring was likely to be unwelcome news at the White House, as President Donald Trump presses ahead in a multi-front confrontation with China and other trade partners that has alarmed the business community and Republican Party.

The construction workforce shed 15,000 positions while the retail industry shrank by 4,400 employees.

Even sectors that posted gains, such as manufacturing, healthcare and mining, saw job creation slow while government hiring was negligible.

Meanwhile, worker wages rose faster than economists had predicted, rising 0.3 per cent for the month to US$26.82 (S$35.35). Worker pay is now up a robust 2.7 per cent over March of 2017, suggesting a tight labour market may at last be driving up compensation and could spur higher inflation.