The March jobs report: Slow growth, steady unemployment rates

The 98,000 jobs added represented a sizable downgrade from the 180,000 that economists predicted.

After several months of positive job growth, March saw a slowdown in the number of jobs added to the economy. The 98,000 jobs added represented a sizable downgrade from the 180,000 that economists predicted.

A single month's worth of data isn't enough evidence for long-term trends, but it nevertheless makes a tangible impact for the U.S. workforce.

A slow month for job growth

Although March's job numbers are somewhat lackluster, the nation's unemployment rate is the best it's been in nearly a decade, reported The New York Times. At 4.5 percent, the national unemployment rate marks a continued recovery from the recession. And, as with any jobs report, there are significant fluctuations depending on location and industry sector.

"The HR market remains steady and optimistic with a significant uptick of positions in 2017 and an emphasis in the area of recruitment," noted Lorri Zelman, Division Director for Beacon Hill's HR Division in New York City. "In January and February, the number of new jobs coming in was at an all-time high. While the volume has slowed, the type of role is a key indicator. We are seeing the highest volume of talent acquisition roles in the last five years which, is often a key sign of a strong economy."

Women benefited the most from March's job growth. According to the report, the unemployment rate for women is below the national average, at 4 percent.

Likewise, there has been a significant drop in the unemployment rate for individuals without high school diplomas. The Wall Street Journal reported that, in 2009 and 2010, the rate reached as high as 15 percent. In March, the rate dropped to 6.8 percent - still above the national average, but a marked improvement.

There's a great deal of speculation around the cause of the lower job numbers. CNBC suggested that massive snowstorms in the east could be to blame for a stagnant retail sector. The New York Times reported that store closings of major retailers across the country may also impact the numbers.

It will take a few more months of data to determine with any certainty the cause for this decrease in job growth. With any luck, warming weather will help boost hiring in April.

The stock market remains calm, despite low jobs numbers.

Sector breakdown

For job seekers, it can help to break the jobs report down by sectors with the most movement. Individuals who are currently employed, but thinking about making a career change, should pay close attention to industry trends.

Here's where the most movement occurred in March:

  • Professional and business services: This category accounted for the majority of March's growth, adding over 56,000 jobs throughout the month.
  • Mining: Support positions in the mining industry gained 9,000 jobs with an additional 2,000 filling out the sector. Mining has shown positive growth since October 2016.
  • Health care: Inpatient and outpatient services added roughly 11,000 jobs in March. Average rates in 2017 have been lower than 2016, however. Last year, the sector added an average of 32,000 jobs per month.
  • Financial activities: This sector added 9,000 jobs in March, contributing to the slow yet steady growth of the past 12 months.
  • Construction: Specialty trade positions in the construction industry have been rising since last summer. In March, the industry generated about 6,000 new positions.
  • Retail trade: The retail industry took a heavy hit in March, losing 30,000 jobs. The sector has been in a decline since January.

March was a disappointing month for job growth, but the unemployment rate remains favorable. Economists and job seekers should look forward to next month's report to see if these trends continue or shift in another direction.

This content is brought to you by the Marketing Team at Beacon Hill Staffing Group.

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