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March Jobs Impressive at 196K, Unemployment 3.8%

Mark Vickery
HCA Healthcare (HCA) first-quarter earnings gain from solid revenues.

Friday, April 5, 2019

U.S. non-farm payrolls came in stronger than expected this morning, as new jobs in March reached 196K, better than the 170K analysts, on average, were expecting. The Unemployment Rate was unchanged from the previous two months at an historically low 3.8%. This data is provided monthly by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

This marks a healthy bounce-back from February’s disappointing headline, which has been upwardly revised to 33K. January’s revision was also increased by 1000 jobs. In all, an additional 14K new jobs have been brought to the revisions, and the 3-month moving average for BLS job gains is 180K.

Average Hourly Earnings rose, but were weaker than analysts had been expecting: +1% month over month and +3.2% year over year, to an average hourly wage of $27.70. That we continue to see growth in these metrics is obviously favorable for the domestic economy, and provide solace to those still worried about overheating inflation. But with such a strong labor market for such an extended period of time, it would be even more pleasing to see wage growth tack along with what economists were modeling.

Healthcare once again led the way by industry, with 49K new jobs in March. A continually aging baby boomer population ensures that this will be a strong jobs driver for years to come. But Retail swung to a negative total in the quarter, -12K, which is the first time in 3 years we’ve seen this. Manufacturing jobs were also down for the month, by -6K.

Labor Force Participation slipped a tad to 63.0%, while the U-6 (aka “real unemployment”) was unchanged at 7.3%, also an historically low total. All these data points push the narrative along — jobs growth continues at healthy levels, with incremental wage growth keeping inflation fears at bay.

With relative volatility in recent economic data, we’d been avoiding using terms like “Goldilocks” to describe the results. But perhaps it’s time to revive the term in relation to today’s jobs numbers? Pre-market futures are up on the news.

Mark Vickery
Senior Editor

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