U.S. employment saw continued growth in the month of March, according to a report released by the Labor Department on Friday, although the pace of job growth came in well below economist estimates.
The report showed that non-farm payroll employment increased by 120,000 jobs in March following an upwardly revised increase of 240,000 jobs in February. Economists had expected the addition of about 201,000 jobs compared to the increase of 227,000 jobs that had been reported for the previous month.
The continued job growth was partly due to notable increases in employment in the leisure and hospitality and manufacturing sectors, which added 39,000 jobs and 37,000 jobs, respectively.
Employment in the education and health services and professional and business services sectors also saw significant growth during the month.
On the other hand, employment in the retail sector fell by 33,800 jobs, extending the drop seen in the previous month. Government employment also edged down by 1,000 jobs.
Despite the weaker than expected job growth, the unemployment rate unexpectedly edged down to 8.2 percent in March from 8.3 percent in February.
With the unexpected drop, the unemployment rate fell to its lowest level since coming in at 7.8 percent in January of 2009.
However, James Knightley, senior economist at ING, noted that the drop in the unemployment rate was "only caused by the size of the workforce falling by less than the drop in the number of people unemployed, with household employment down 31,000."
"This is a disappointing release that doesn't really tally with the rest of the labor related figures we have seen in recent months," Knightley added. "Consequently, it is possible that there may have been some weather related distortions and we remain hopeful of better numbers for April."
The report also showed that employees' average hourly earnings edged up by $0.05 or 0.2 percent to $23.39 in March. Compared to the same month a year ago, average hourly earnings were up 2.1 percent.
by RTT Staff Writer
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