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Job growth slowed in March. What does that mean for the economy?

The economy added 103,000 jobs last month, fewer than economists had expected and the lowest monthly total since last September.

Economists had predicted 185,000 new jobs in March, according to a Bloomberg survey taken before the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its monthly jobs report Friday. The March slump followed robust gains in February, when the economy added more than 300,000 jobs.

“The March employment report is on the disappointing side,” said Mark Hamrick, the senior economic analyst at Bankrate.com.

Still, Hamrick and other analysts said the economy overall remained strong. The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 4.1 percent, and wages grew slightly.

“It’s a pretty solid picture all the way around,” said Dan North, the chief economist at Euler Hermes North America. “Things still look fine.”

Here are top takeaways from the March report:

  • Extending a record growth streak: March was the 90th consecutive month of job growth, the country’s longest known stretch of consecutive monthly job gains. The streak started in October 2010, as the economy was emerging from the Great Recession.
  • Unemployment rate steady: The unemployment rate held steady at 4.1 percent for the sixth month in a row, dating back to last October. At a congressional hearing last month, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said the unemployment rate could drop as low as 3.5 percent. Powell’s comments sparked a debate about how much lower the unemployment rate could drop in the near future.
  • Manufacturing up, construction down: The manufacturing sector added 22,000 jobs in March, including 9,000 in metal fabrication. The industry has added 230,000 jobs over the past year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics report. Jobs in the construction industry fell by 15,000, after a gain of 65,000 jobs in February. Analysts attributed the decline in part to severe winter weather that limited construction work in the Northeast.
  • Would a trade war hurt the economy? Trade tensions between the United States and China have escalated in recent weeks, after President Donald Trump announced tariffs on Chinese imports and China responded in kind. While the tariffs haven’t taken effect yet, stock markets have dropped several times recently over concerns about a possible trade war. The manufacturing sector — which Trump has championed — could suffer if the situation deteriorates, said Cathy Barrera, the chief economist at the online job marketplace ZipRecruiter. After months of steady manufacturing sector growth, “it’s unclear if, with the announced changes in trade policy, that trajectory can be maintained over the coming months,” Barrera said.
  • Wages rebound, but not by much: Average hourly wages rose by 8 cents in March, after barely rising in February. Private, wages are up 71 cents, or 2.7 percent, over the past year. Analysts said the slow wage growth should curb fears of inflation. “The wage growth number is a little stronger and it makes up for what was a poor figure in February,” James McCann, the senior global economist at Aberdeen Standard Investments, said. “But the overall trend is one of very gradual wage growth.”

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