US job recovery stalls
- Published: 5/04/2013 at 08:22 PM
- Online news:
WASHINGTON — US employers added just 88,000 jobs in March, the fewest in nine months and a sharp retreat after a period of strong hiring, according to figures released on Friday.
And while the unemployment rate has fallen to 7.6%, a four-year low, it is mainly because more people have stpped looking for work.
The slowdown is a reminder that the path back to full health for the US job market and the economy will be uneven.
Fewer Americans sought unemployment aid last week, reducing the average number of weekly applications for March to a five-year low. The drop shows that fewer layoffs are strengthening the job market.
Shawn Gordon, corporate presenter of the Dorsey Schools, listens to a job applicant at an employment fair in Dearborn, Michigan. (AP Photo)
The Labor Department said the unemployment rate dipped to 7.6% from 7.7%. The government counts people as unemployed only if they are actively looking for a job.
The percentage of Americans working or looking for jobs fell to 63.3% in March, the lowest in nearly 34 years.
The weakness in March may signal that some companies were worried last month about steep government spending cuts that began on March 1.
March's job gains were half the pace of the previous six months, when the economy added an average of 196,000 jobs a month. The drop raises fears that the economy could slow after a showing signs of strengthening over the winter.
In fact, the government said hiring was even stronger over the previous two months than estimated last month. February's job gains were revised to 268,000, up from 236,000. January job growth was 148,000, up from 119,000.
Several industries cut back sharply on hiring in March. Retailers cut 24,000 jobs after averaging 32,000 in the previous three months. Manufacturers cut 3,000 jobs after adding 19,000 the previous month. Financial services shed 2,000.
Economists say the decline in the workforce reflects several trends: many of those out of work become discouraged and give up on their job hunts. And as the population ages, more people are retiring.
Most economists are predicting that first-quarter gross domestic product data will show that the US economy strengthened, helped by the pickup in hiring, a sustained recovery in housing and more resilient consumer spending.
Consumers stepped up purchases in February and January, even after Social Security taxes increased this year.
Still the higher taxes have reduced paycheques. And many economists say $85 billion in automatic government spending cuts will slow growth in the spring and summer.
Economists expect the spending reductions will shave half a percentage point off economic growth this year. Many federal workers will experience pay cuts. And government contractors will likely cut jobs. That could also drag down overall monthly hiring.
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Writer: Associated Press