Business hiring bounced back in March after a disappointing February, with 196,000 jobs added, surpassing economists’ expectations.
The unemployment rate stayed flat at 3.8 percent, the Labor Department said Friday morning.
The numbers show “that growth might be slowing but underlying fundamentals remain strong,” said Joe Brusuelas, chief economist at RSM.
Economists had expected about 175,000 jobs to be added in March, after an unusually sluggish February. That month saw just 33,000 jobs added, according to revised figures released this month–just a tenth of the jobs added the month before.
On average, the economy has added 180,000 jobs a month for the past three months.
Stock markets rose on the news, with Dow futures jumping 100 points.
Pay growth moderates
Wage growth was slower than in prior months. Average hourly wages rose 3.2 percent year-over-year, below its pace of growth this year.
Low inflation is one of the culprits behind lower-than-expected wage growth, economists say. Another is that businesses have been sweetening their job offers in non-financial ways, such as better benefits or more flexibility.
“When you look at base pay, employers haven’t been offering the big pay raises that we’ve seen in the past,” said Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist at Glassdoor.
Even so, wages are outpacing inflation, which is good news for household budgets.
“Job gains and good wage growth will push household spending higher in 2019; consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of the U.S. economy,” noted PNC chief economist Gus Faucher in an email after the numbers were released.
This is a developing story.