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U.S. labor market bounces back with 196,000 jobs in March

Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Axios Visuals

The economy added 196,000 jobs in March — topping economists' forecasts of 175,000, and a big rebound from February's weak report, the Labor Department said on Friday. The unemployment rate held at 3.8%, while wages grew 3.2% from the prior year — a slightly slower pace than last month.

Why it matters: This month's report, which shows that the economy added an additional 13,000 jobs in February than initially estimated, proves the jobs market is still chugging along for now.

  • "The economy has been adding jobs faster ... which is staggering considering how far along we are in post-recession recovery," said Steve Rick, chief economist at CUNA Mutual Group.

Details:

  • Job growth averaged 180,000 per month in the first quarter of 2019. That's lower than the average 223,000 per month in the same time period last year, but still strong.
  • The number of people jumping in or out of the labor force didn't budge much. The labor force participation rate — or the share of the population working or looking for work — fell slightly to 63% from the 63.2% in February.

The bottom line: March marks the 102nd straight month of job gains. The question for months has been how much longer the stretch of impressive job growth can go on before the labor market taps out, which would have implications for the Fed and an economy that's feared to be slowing.

  • Economist Justin Wolfers tweets, in part: "If anything, the concern has to be that ongoing jobs growth of nearly +200k per month is going to be hard to sustain with the unemployment rate below 4% ... it's great that it's happening, but the Fed's going to be worried that it's happening too quickly."