Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

A private survey found that companies added the fewest jobs in 18 months in March, which could mean that employers may have become more cautious as they notice signs of slower economic growth.

Payroll processor ADP said that businesses added 129,000 jobs in March,down from the previous month’s gain of 197,000. Still, the job gains in March are enough to lower the unemployment rate over time.

The added jobs were in service sectors, such as education and health care, which added a combined total of 56,000. Professional and business services (engineering, accounting, and other higher-paid work) added 41,000.

Both construction and manufacturing firms cut jobs in March.

Small businesses added just 6,000 jobs, far below the number hired by large and medium-sized businesses. Smaller companies typically struggle to compete in hiring with bigger businesses which can usually provide higher pay or greater benefits.

ADP’s report does not include government employees .

The U.S. economy appears to have slowed in the past couple of months. Global growth is also slowing, with Europe almost in recession and the U.S. trade war with China affecting both countries’ economies.

Still, the low number by historical standards of Americans seeking unemployment benefits is a sign that companies are laying off few workers.

Companies are also advertising a record-high level of available jobs.

The economy expanded at a 3.8% annual rate in the spring and summer of last year, the fastest six-month expansion in four years. Then, economic growth has decelerated to just 2.2% in the last three months of 2018.

Most economists forecast economic growth at just 1.5% to 2% in the first quarter.

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