U.S. hiring was down last month, with employers adding 98,000 jobs in March, according to figures released by the U.S. Labor Department. That’s lower than the 185,000 economists had expected and far below an earlier report by payroll firm ADP and Moody’s Analytics, which said that private sector companies added 263,000 jobs.
Despite the slower growth, unemployment in the U.S. dropped to its lowest level since May 2007, falling from 4.7% in February to 4.5% in March. Wages also continued to rise, according to the Labor Department.
Analysts blamed harsh winter weather, a late Easter that likely bumped holiday hiring into April, and a tight labor market for the lower numbers. “It’s getting tougher for businesses to hire workers,” Gus Faucher, an economist with PNC Financial Services Group, told USA Today.
Some economists also noted that a boost in consumer and business confidence after President Trump’s election may not be translating into real spending. “We’ve given up on waiting for hard data to improve,” Barclays economist Rob Martin told The New York Times. “It’s been five months since confidence increased. If consumption were going to improve, it would have already.”
As for employment, professional and business services had the biggest gains in March, growing by a robust 56,000 jobs. Healthcare was up 17,000 jobs, and leisure and hospitality added 9,000 positions. The construction industry only added 6,000 jobs. Retailers, especially hard-hit by the weather and closings by some major shopping chains, fared the worst, shedding 30,000 jobs last month.