The number of U.S. non-farm jobs added in March moderated while trucking added the most jobs in recent memory, according to a new Labor Department report.

Overall, 103,000 jobs were added for the month, far short of analysts’ expectations of a 185,000 gain, and well below February’s jump of 326,000 new jobs.

Also, the total number of job additions for January and February were revised downward by 50,000 jobs. Despite this and the March performance, employers have added a healthy average of 211,000 jobs per month in the past six months.

All this kept the nation’s unemployment rate at a 17-year low of 4.1%, where it’s been for six straight months.

In for-hire trucking, there were 6.700 job additions in March, following the 6,000 added during February. The wider transportation and warehousing sector added 9,800 jobs in March, due not just to trucking, as the couriers and messengers, and warehousing and storage categories also reported solid gains.

March for-hire trucking employment totaled nearly 1.48 million-- that's up 23,000 jobs from the same time a year earlier.

Employment also grew in manufacturing, health care, and mining. Manufacturing jobs rose by 22,000, with all of the gain in the durable goods component. Year over year, manufacturing has added 232,000 jobs. The durable goods component accounted for about three-fourths of the jobs added, according to the department.

Some overall moderation was widely expected going into the report given the surge in February, according to Paul Ferley, assistant chief economist at RBC Economic Research.

“More robust employment gains were also expected to be reflected in the unemployment rate dropping to 4.0% from February’s rate of 4.1% though today’s report indicated that this rate remained unchanged,” he said. “That said, the current unemployment rate still remains below the Federal Reserve’s assumed long-run range of 4.3% to 4.7%.”

Ferley said this new report provides confirmation of tight labor markets, as the annual increase in wages rose to 2.7% in March from 2.6% in February and a 2017 average of 2.5%.

“The likelihood of labor markets operating beyond capacity is possibly starting to limit firms’ ability to find new workers, particularly after outsized gains in recent months,” Ferley said.

The report follows ones from a couple of days earlier showing private sector employment increased by 241,000 jobs in March and that manufacturing in March remained strong.

About the author
Evan Lockridge

Evan Lockridge

Former Business Contributing Editor

Trucking journalist since 1990, in the news business since early ‘80s.

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