US adds 236,000 jobs in March as unemployment rate remains little changed

The lower job numbers come as a hot labour market cools down amid increasing interest rates

Eric Garcia
Friday 07 April 2023 15:04 BST
(Getty Images)

The US economy added 236,000 in the month of March, but the unemployment rate changed very little as the Federal Reserve continues to raise interest rates.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics report found that the unemployment rate was at 3.5 per cent, essentially unchanged from the 3.6 per cent in February and the number of unemployed people remained at 5.8 million people.

A 172,000 increase in permanent job losers partially drove the unchanged unemployment levels. Meanwhile, the number of people who re-entered the labour force declined by 182,000.

Unemployment for Hispanic workers declined to 4.6 per cent, but almost every other demographic saw their unemployment level stay the same.

Average hourly earnings increased by 0.3 per cent in March and by 4.2 in the past 12 months.

Leisure and hospitality added 72,000 jobs in March, which was lower than the average monthly 95,000 jobs that the sector added for the past six months. Similarly, the health care sector added 34,000 jobs, which was lower than the average monthly gain of 54,000 for the past six months.

Additionally, the BLS revised the number of jobs added in February from 311,000 to 326,000 while it revised the number of job added in January, down from 504,000 to only 472,000.

The new jobs numbers come as the Federal Reserve continues to try and tamp down on inflation. Last month, Chairman Jerome Powell announced that the central bank would raise interest rates for the ninth consecutive time, which could come at the expense of a hot job market.

“Job gains have picked up in recent months and are running at a robust pace; the unemployment rate has remained low,” Mr Powell said. “Inflation remains elevated.”

The job numbers come as the Biden administration continues to try and sell a robust job market and winds down measures meant to mitigate the Covid-19 pandemic. It also appears that President Joe Biden hopes to make the growth in jobs since the beginning of his administration a point of accomplishment if he seeks another term in the White House.

“The unemployment rate is close to the lowest it has been in more than 50 years and a record low for African Americans,” Mr Biden said in a statement about the March report. “Thanks to the policies we have put in place, the recovery is creating good jobs that you can raise a family on, which is pulling more Americans into the labor force.”

Mr Biden also mentioned in his statement how Republican brinksmanship on the debt limit put the US economy at risk.

“Their extreme agenda would send the unprecedented investments we’ve made here in America – along with the jobs that come with it – overseas,” he said. “And it’s all to pay for even more giveaways to the wealthiest Americans and largest corporations. Make no mistake, I will stop those efforts to put our economy at risk and take us back to the failed policies of the past.”

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has called on Mr Biden to negotiate with him. But Mr Biden has so far rebuffed Mr McCarthy, calling on him to release a budget plan as he did.

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