Jobs report: USA workforce grew by 103000 in March

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Employers added a modest 103,000 jobs in March, a slowdown in hiring in a still healthy jobs market, the Labor Department said Friday.

The result was less than a third of the payroll gains in February and far lower than the 175,000 analysts expected. Job growth is also moderating as the labor market hits full employment. Economists expected average hourly earnings to rise 0.3% over the prior month and 2.7% over the prior year.

With labor market slack diminishing, wage growth picked up a bit in March.

The civilian labor force participation rate fell 0.1 percentage point to 62.9%.

The jobs numbers are closely watched by Federal Reserve policymakers.

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This includes raising the minimum wage to $14 an hour on January 1, ensuring part-time workers are paid the same hourly wage as full-time workers, introducing paid sick days for every worker, and enabling at least three weeks' vacation after five years with the same employer.

The return of cold weather and a shortage of skilled workers weighed on hiring at construction sites in March. Monthly payroll gains have averaged 201,000 this year, compared with 182,000 in 2017.

There is hope that wage growth will accelerate in the second half of the year and allow the USA central bank to continue raising interest rates. The economy grew at a 2.9 percent pace in the fourth quarter.

That was a slight acceleration from the previous month, but still below the rate of increase when the unemployment rate was last at this level.

It's early yet, but Republicans need a long string of uninterrupted good economic news in order to counter the natural midterm backlash, along with other issues that are specific to this election cycle. If this extends for more than a month, it's going to set up some unpleasant expectations for November.