Pace of U.S. hiring tumbles, yet jobless rate hits 10-year low

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After months of pumping out new jobs at a steady clip, the world's largest economy added only 98,000 net new positions last month, the Labor Department reported Friday - a figure far below analyst expectations.

But the lack of booming jobs numbers will need to be carefully massaged by the White House, after President Trump spent much of 2016 describing the USA economy in dire terms and claiming the employment gains reported under the Obama administration were a mirage.

"For the Fed, the unemployment rate is the ultimate arbiter of the tightness of the labor market, and the prospect of the rate continuing to fall towards 4% will be very disconcerting", he wrote.

But in a sign there is still slack in the economy, the hourly wages of permanent employees rose by just 0.9 percent from March 2016. Temporary help employment was up 3.8% y/y, with monthly job gains averaging approximately 9,200 over the past 12 months.

In March construction companies added just 6,000 jobs, the fewest in seven months and 52,000 fewer than in February. Bloomberg said the fact that the jobless rate fell even as job creation did suggests that the market is returning to more normal conditions.

Hiring is believed to have been affected in March by weather-related factors.

Overall job growth in March was well below the 219,000 figure from the previous month.

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The most impressive performance was delivered by the construction sector which added 58,000 jobs - the best in a decade, thanks to the unusually warmer weather which generally allow projects to start sooner.

U.S. President Donald Trump acknowledges auto workers at the American Center for Mobility March 15, 2017 in Ypsilanti, Michigan. People are counted as unemployed only if they're actively seeking work.

Retail payrolls fell 29,700, declining for a second straight month.

Job growth for education and health services also decelerated fairly dramatically.

The PayScale Index, which measures the change in wages for employed US workers, forecast 3.2 percent year-over-year wage growth for Q1 2017. Meanwhile, online retailers, the big competitors to physical stores, gained 2,200 jobs.

The retail sector continued to struggle last month. In February 2016, the unemployment rate for the Charlottesville MSA was 3.5 percent.

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