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Employment Summary for March 2018

The pace of job growth in the U.S. slowed down somewhat during March 2018, by comparison to the month before. On a general level, indicators for this period continued to exemplify the sustained boom of the American economy. Nevertheless, some concerns exist among business leaders and economic experts regarding what the reduction in pace might signify, particularly for trade in the near future.

According to the latest edition of the Employment Situation Summary released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nonfarm businesses in the U.S. added 103,000 jobs. The unemployment rate, meanwhile, remained static at 4.1 percent for the sixth month in a row. This newest figure does represent a drop of some magnitude when placed next to the 326,000 positions (revised from a preliminary total of 313,000) that American companies created in February 2018. Bloomberg reported that it fell short of the median prediction issued by the financial news network's economists, who thought the various industries of the U.S. would add 185,000 jobs.

Industries most responsible for the gains that did occur in March included professional and business services, healthcare, manufacturing and mining. The former led the pack with 33,000 jobs added, continuing on a growth path that has spanned 2018 thus far. Stemming largely from increased employment in the creation of durable goods, manufacturing created 22,000 positions, in another month of recovery for a field on the rise since 2017 after a few years of sluggishness. Healthcare also added 22,000 jobs, and mining rounded up the notable sector-by-sector expansions in employment for March with 9,000 new positions on its payrolls.

Construction and retail trade both experienced drop-offs in their payrolls, with 15,000 and 4,000 jobs lost, respectively. However, because these declines followed up considerable surges in February - the former added 65,000 jobs that month, while the latter created 47,000 - they should bring little to no detriment to either sector in the long run.

Wages for March 2018 went up 2.7 percent on a year-over-year basis, while average hourly earnings rose 8 cents between February and March of this year, BLS figures found. This increase is seen as one of the most positive figures in the latest Employment Situation Summary, as previous months in early 2018 and late 2017 saw static or slow wage rises despite all of the robust additions to companies' labor forces. March also saw the year's first hike of interest rates by the Federal Reserve - one of the initial actions by newly appointed Fed Chair Jerome Powell.

The Washington Post reported that most concerns regarding the American economic picture center around the recent tariffs the White House imposed upon steel and aluminum imported to the U.S., leading to inventory shortfalls and rashes of abrupt materials purchases. The construction and manufacturing industries, which have historically used a considerable amount of foreign steel, could see impedance to their operations based on price fluctuations and other effects of trade disputes regarding these metals. In its latest Report on Business, the Institute for Supply Management cited respondents to its queries for elaboration on these matters:

"Accurate, long-term planning has become incredibly difficult, as distributors that historically held costs for at least 30 days are now, in some cases, committing to only seven days, as prices can change drastically in that time," the ISM report stated.

However, the big picture of the U.S. economy is likely a fairly bright one due to wage gains and increases in figures like the labor force participation rate, which rose to 62.9 percent in March 2018. This increase represents an 0.2 percent uptick from the previous month and another positive step on the path toward pre-recession labor participation figures of 66 percent or greater.

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