Jobs Numbers Show Solid But Slow Growth In U.S. Economy

The U.S. economy added 196,000 net new jobs in March. That’s a huge increase from the 33,000 jobs added in February (revised upward from the original 20,000) and showed that the plunge in the February jobs total was an aberration. Economists surveyed by had projected a gain of 170,000 jobs in March.

The trend over the last three months shows an average gain of 180,000 a month. That’s very solid job growth.

But, and its a big “but,” the rest of the employment report wasn’t nearly as positive.While the unemployment rate had steady at 3.8%, average hourly earnings barely crept higher with March wages up just 0.1%. Over the last 12 months ending March, average hourly earnings grew at a rate of 3.2%. That’s down from the 12-month rate of 3.4% for the 12 months ended in February.Health/education, leisure, and government sectors led job growth in March, adding 70,000, 33,000 and 14,000 jobs, respectively. But manufacturing continued its weakness with a loss of 6,000 jobs in March. The retail sector showed an even heavier loss of 11,000 jobs in March, although that was a better performance than in February.

U.S. stock markets took the jobs numbers as modestly positive. The Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index closed up 0.46% today. The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended ahead 0.15%. The NASDAQ Composite was higher by 0.59% and the Russell 2000 small cap index was the best performer of the day finished ahead by 0.91%. The CBOE S&P 500 Volatility Index (VIX) fell 5.3% to 12.84 as “fear” continued to recede. The 10-year U.S. Treasury finished the day yielding 2.50%, down two basis points. The 3-month Treasury bill held at 2.42%. In the oil markets U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate gained 1.88% to $63.27 a barrel and international benchmark Brent crude moved up 1.5% to $70.44 a barrel.

The U.S. dollar gained with the Dollar Spot index (DXY) ticking up 0.08% on the day.