Hiring Slows in March, Wage Gains Strongest in Seven Years

April 06, 2018

Employers added 103,000 payroll jobs in March after a strong gain in February, and average weekly earnings have increased 3.3 percent over the past year while the unemployment rate remained at 4.1 percent.  Employers appear to have taken a pause in hiring after adding almost 1.2 million jobs in the prior five months, and a recent Federal Report said the "labor market in early 2018 appears to be near or a little beyond full employment."  However, uncertainty over trade issues with China and NAFTA have the potential to constrain future job gains for the next few months.  Average weekly earnings increased at its fastest yearly pace since 2011, which may also be constraining job growth.  Despite the slow-down in March, the pace of hiring has picked up over the past year, compared to the 2015 to 2017 period (see moving average in the chart).  In January, just four industries accounted for 72 percent of the increase in payroll jobs:
  • Health Care (+22,400);
  • Manufacturing (+22,000);
  • Professional and technical Services (+18,900); and
  • Wholesale trade (+11,400).
Most other industries had little or no job gains, with the notable exception of construction (-15,000), which added 65,000 jobs in February.