U.S. gains 313000 jobs; unemployment rate holds steady

Ivan Schwartz
March 11, 2018

The U.S. expansion has put millions of people back to work and economists agree that the economy is now at or close to full employment. This year, average hourly earnings have increased by 68 cents. In another sign of a strong labor market, the number of workers in the USA labor force increased by 806,000, the largest monthly increase since 2003.

The Labor Department says wage gains, meanwhile, fell from the previous month to 2.6 percent year-over-year growth.

The Trump administration's tax cuts appear to have lifted optimism among consumers and businesses.

Wall Street has been particularly focused on wage growth as an indicator of which story is more compelling - and more to the point, which story Fed Chairman Jerome Powell and his colleagues at the Fed will find more persuasive.

This came in the bureau's Employment Situation Summary, and provides strong evidence to support the White House's pro-growth policies and encourage more of the same. But the White House should pay attention to what got us here, and do more of it. The dollar slipped against a basket of currencies.

Economist Heidi Hartmann, president of the Institute for Women's Policy Research, said the rising price of childcare, combined with a decade of slow wage growth, keeps some workers from seeking jobs. That was down from 2.8 percent for the 12 months that ended January 31. The economy grew at a 2.5 percent pace in the fourth quarter.

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The U.S. saw gains in sectors that the president has specifically targeted, including construction (+61,000), manufacturing (+31,000), and mining (+9,000)-which, until his election in 2016, were losing jobs. Chris Low of FTN Financial said in a client note. "There's no reason whatsoever for the Fed to have a stimulative monetary policy at this stage of the business cycle".

Low unemployment, in theory, creates wage and inflation pressure as firms compete for scarcer labor. "Not to be outshined, the household survey reported a massive gain in employment amid a rise in the labor force participation rate, which posted the biggest one-month jump since April 2010".

An even broader gauge of labor market health, the percentage of working-age Americans with a job, increased to 60.4 percent last month from 60.1 percent in January.

"The wealth creation effect of resource-oriented, manufacturing and building jobs, brought on not only by tax cuts by the Trump regulatory reform agenda, gives real hope that our nation's Gross Domestic Product will finally break through the three percent annual threshold that Obama apologists claimed was no longer attainable". Financial services gained 28,000, the biggest increase since 2005.

Hiring in February was broad-based.

Retail trade expanded by a whopping 50,000 jobs, with general merchandise stores leading the way (18,000 positions), according to the BLS data. Job gains typically slow as the unemployment rate falls, because companies run out of workers to hire. There were also increases in payrolls for professional and business services, leisure and hospitality as well as healthcare and social assistance.

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