On Friday, the Labor Department reported that non-farm payrolls grew by just 88,000 in March, a number far below expectations. Just a few weeks ago, economists predicted a gain of around 200,000 jobs. The unemployment rate is at 7.6%. Average hourly earnings were flat.
The March jobs number is the latest in a string of recent bad economic data. In February, the economy added around 268,000 jobs. The pullback was most dramatic in the private sector. In February, the private sector added 254,000 jobs. In March, however, it was just 95,000.
The unemployment rate was largely unchanged, but only because almost half a million workers left the labor force. The labor force participation rate ticked down 0.2%, to the lowest level since 1979.
In the 3rd Quarter last year, the economy grew at around 3%, on an annualized basis. The 4th Quarter, however, saw a sharp pull back. After initially estimating that the economy contracted at the end of the year, the Commerce Department has reported that the economy grew at an anemic 0.4%, essentially flat.
While there were several positive trends at the start of the year, recent data suggest a slowdown in the overall economy. Jobless claims numbers have been higher than expected the past few weeks, a good indicator of a weakening jobs market. In addition, manufacturing indexes have declined and consumer spending has been weaker than expected.
March’s jobs number suggests the economy is continuing to cool. Looks like we’re headed for another Summer Bummer, economically.
This post has been updated.
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