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U.S. job growth slows, jobless rate holds steady

A construction worker walked along One Dalton in Boston which is under construction

Employers added 103,000 positions to the US workforce in March, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said Friday - the smallest workforce increase since last fall.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics also revised estimates for prior months, resulting in a net loss of jobs. That was the smallest amount since last September and followed a 326,000 surge in February. With these revisions, employment gains in January and February combined were 50,000 less than previously reported.

However, wage growth picked up in March.

Meanwhile, worker wages rose faster than economists had predicted, rising 0.3 per cent for the month to US$26.82 (S$35.35).

"If one were to only focus on this single month, the March employment report is on the disappointing side", said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate.com, according to CNBC, "Broader context is appropriate, however".

Jed Kolko, chief economist at Indeed, said Friday that while March's total job gains are fewer than expected and on the surface appear to be a disappointment, this level of job growth is "more than enough to keep up with the slow-growing working-age population". Still, the expansion has been puzzlingly slow, with economic growth averaging just 2.2 percent a year, about a percentage point below the historical average.

While the official unemployment rate held steady for a sixth-straight month in March, the underemployment rate, which captures those out of work and those who want full-time work but are working part-time, moved down to 8% in March after having hit 8.2% the prior month.

The average workweek for employees on nomfarm payrolls held steady at 34.5 hours.

The Fed increased borrowing costs last month and forecast two more interest rate hikes this year. Average hourly pay ticked up, climbing 2.7 percent compared with a year earlier.

Private service-providing industries gained 87,000 jobs, led by professional and business services and education and health care, adding 33,000 and 25,000 jobs, respectively. Economists did not see an impact on hiring in the near-term from a recent stock market selloff, which has caused a tightening in financial conditions. They can't afford multiple months of below-expectation job growth.