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Hiring picked up strongly in March as employers created 196,000 new jobs, exceeding the economists’ forecast of 175,000, easing fears of a cooling economy.

The 3.8% unemployment rate in February was unchanged in March, the Labor Department said.

Payroll growth was just 33,000 in February, it raised concerns that hiring would be reduced further as the benefits of federal tax cuts and spending increases fade and the low unemployment rate makes it harder for employers to find workers.

Economists largely anticipated a return to normalcy with better weather in March.  Goldman Sachs estimated that below-average snowfall would bolster job gains by about 20,000.

Economists were waiting for the March jobs report to help them determine whether the February totals reflected a blip or the start of a steeper slowdown in hiring and the economy. 

Industries that added jobs

Health care and social assistance led job creation with 61,000. Professional and business services added 37,000, while leisure and hospitality added 33,000, and construction came in at 16,000.

Manufacturing cut 6,000 jobs for the second straight month after strong gains last year, indicating the struggling global economy and the effect of the U.S. trade fight with China.

Retail cut 12,000 jobs, down from 20,000 cuts in February as more shoppers buy online, .

Labor force participation down  

American adults working or looking for jobs fell to 63% from 63.2% in March, which could mean that labor force participation is resuming its longer-term decline as baby boomers retire. It means a reduction in labor supply for employers that could push up wages and inflation further. If the situation continues, it could prompt the Fed to eventually raise rates.

What the job data mean

In March, job growth bounced back forcefully from its poor February performance, alleviating worries of an imminent economic downturn. However, yearly wage growth, dropped from the 10-year high reached two months ago. That should keep the Fed on hold for now.

The report offers no reason for the Fed to consider cutting rates, as President Trump has urged.