Jobs Growth Slowed In March
The unemployment rate in the U.S. fell to its lowest level, 4.5%, since the Great Recession, while average wages increased five cents, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics monthly employment report for March. These improvements came despite a dramatic slowdown in jobs growth from the first two months of the year. The economy added 98,000 non-farm payroll jobs in March following two months during which gains exceeded 200,000 per month. The BLS also revised down by 38,000 the total gains for January and March. Still, the monthly average over the past three months was 178,000, slightly higher than the current consensus forecast from Blue Chip Economic Indicators economists for monthly jobs growth in 2017.
In spite of the disappointing top-line jobs growth number, the data indicates that the labor market remains strong, and appears to be nearing full employment. The decline in the unemployment rate came as the labor force participation rate and the employment-to-population ratio remained constant. And the gain in average hourly earnings continues a trend with wages up 2.7% during the past 12 months, well ahead of the inflation rate.
Most of the employment gains for March were in professional and business services, which added 56,000 jobs. All the goods producing sectors—mining, construction and manufacturing—posted small increases with 28,000 new jobs created overall. But retail trade lost a surprising 29,700 jobs and leisure and hospitality, which includes foodservice, added only 9,000 new jobs in March, a pronounced slowdown.
Employment growth is one of the key drivers of foodservice sales.