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U.S. Jobs Rose by Just 120,000 in March

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The United States in March gained 120,000 jobs, disappointing expectations for greater employment growth, while the unemployment rate dropped slightly to 8.2% from 8.3% last month, the Labor Department reported Friday.

However, with the U.S. stock market closed for the Easter and Passover holidays, and the bond market open for just a few hours, reaction to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) jobs report was lackluster.

Bill Gross said on PIMCO’s Twitter feed: “What is the quality of new jobs? Almost entirely service & most w/o healthcare & other benefits. America in relative decline.”

But in a spot of bright news for the “financial activities” sector, employment was reported up by 15,000 in March, with 11,000 jobs added in credit intermediation, the BLS said. The financial activities unemployment rate is now 5.7% compared with 7.1% a year ago.

Employment in professional and business services continued to trend up in March, with jobs growth of 31,000. “Employment in the industry has grown by 1.4 million since a recent low point in September 2009,” the BLS reported.

Economists in a Bloomberg survey had predicted a gain of 205,000 jobs in March, following the creation of 240,000 jobs in February. Employment rose by an average of 246,000 in each of the last three months.

Guy LeBas, chief fixed income strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott, said the BLS report fell far short of expectations, with job growth measuring “a measly” 120,000, the poorest showing in five months, back when the confidence blow over the U.S. ratings downgrade was still hurting economic results. 

“Today’s numbers will inevitably jump-start fear that the winter spike in job growth was in fact a temporary and weather-driven phenomenon, as we had feared,” LeBas said in an analyst note.

The number of long-term unemployed, meaning workers who have been jobless for 27 weeks or longer, was essentially unchanged at 5.3 million in March, the BLS reported. Employment rose in manufacturing, food services and drinking places, and health care, but was down in retail trade.

Government employment saw little change month over month, but for the year, there are nearly 100,000 more government workers than in March 2011. The government unemployment rate now stands at 3.7% compared with 4.0% a year ago.

Read 10 Best Cities for Jobs in Financial Services at AdvisorOne.


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