U.S. jobless rate falls to 10-year low despite small payroll gain

Job growth has decelerated in the United States with the smallest monthly payroll gain in nearly a year.

At the same time, though, the national unemployment rate has dropped to its lowest level in nearly a decade.

The Department of Labor reported mixed news in its latest statistical snapshot, estimating an increase of 98,000 in nonfarm payrolls in March along with a two-tenths of a percent decrease in the jobless rate to 4.5 percent. The monthly payroll gain was the smallest since May 2016, but the jobless rate dropped to its lowest level since May 2007.

Initial estimates for payroll gains in February and January were revised downard a total of 38,000.

Given the latest numbers, payrolls have increased on average 178,000 a month over the past three months.

The number of people counted among those unsuccessfully looking for work declined 326,000 to 7.2 million. Of those, 1.7 million have been out of work 27 weeks or longer. Another 5.6 million people were counted among those working part-time because their hours were reduced or they’ve been unable to find full-time positions.

For March, professional and business services added 58,000 jobs, while employment increased 14,000 in health care, 11,000 in mining, 9,000 in financial activities and 6,000 in construction. Retail trades cut 30,000 positions even as such large national chains as J.C. Penney and Sears close stores.

The average workweek for employees on private, nonfarm payrolls held steady at 34.3 hours. The manufacturing workweek edged down two-tenths of an hour to 40.6 hours.

Average hourly earnings for employees on private, nonfarm payrolls rose 5 cents to $26.14. Over the past year, average earnings have increased 68 cents or 2.7 percent.