U.S. job growth slows, jobless rate holds steady

Job growth in the United States retreated to its slowest pace in six months while the unemployment rate remained unchanged for a sixth straight month.

According to the latest Labor Department estimates, nonfarm payrolls increased 103,000 in March. That’s the smallest gain since September, but the 90th consecutive month for increases.The jobless rate held steady at 4.1 percent.

The small March gain follows a big increase in February, revised upward to 13,000 to 326,000. The initial estimate for January was revised downward 63,000 to 176,000. Given the latest numbers, payroll gains have averaged 202,000 a month over the past three months.

Still, 6.6 million people were counted among those unsuccessfully looking for work in March. Of those, 1.3 million have been out of work 27 weeks or longer.  Another 5 million people were counted among those working part-time because their hours had been cut or they’ve been unable to find full-time positions.

The labor force participation rate edged down a tenth of a point to 62.9 percent.

Job gains in March were spread out among a number of industry sectors. Payrolls grew 33,000 in business and professional services, 22,000 each in manufacturing and healthcare and 9,000 in mining. Employment declined 15,000 in construction and 4,000 in retail trades.

The average workweek for employees on nomfarm payrolls held steady at 34.5 hours. The average manufacturing workweek slipped a tenth of an hour to 40.9 hours.

Average hourly earnings for employees on nonfarm payrolls increased 8 cents to $26.82. Over the past year, hourly earnings have increased 71 cents or 2.7 percent.