Jobs report: US economy added 98,000 jobs in March, far lower than economists' estimate of 180,000

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US employers added 98,000 nonfarm payrolls in March, fewer than expected, according to a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics released on Friday.

Economists had forecast that the US economy added 180,000 jobs, according to Bloomberg.

The unemployment rate fell to a post-crisis low of 4.5%, and the number of people who were working part-time but preferred full-time jobs fell by 151,000 to 5.5 million.

The manufacturing sector scaled back hiring after a strong month that was partly attributed to unusually warm weather. It gained 11,000 jobs. Many economists did not expect the sector to maintain the kind of gains it saw in February as robots play an increasing role and even amid promises from Washington to create many more manufacturing jobs.

Retail hiring slowed again, with companies in the sector expected to close up to 3,500 stores in early 2017. Retail trade lost 29,700 jobs in February, with the vast majority of cuts coming from department stores that sell everything from furniture to vegetables. Meanwhile, online retailers, the big competitor to physical stores, gained 2,200 jobs.

Total nonfarm payrolls in February were revised lower to 219,000 from 235,000 prior; the BLS tends to significantly revise the first two jobs reports of the year to account for the weather.

The pace of overall job creation partly depends on how many people — especially those in the prime age range of 25-54 — return to the workforce. The labor-force participation rate was unchanged at 63%, remaining near the lowest level in decades as the baby boomer generation continues to entire retirement.

Average hourly earnings increased 0.2% month-on-month and 2.7% year-on-year, still near a post-recession high. The post-crisis record, set in February at 2.8%, was further evidence of a tighter labor market.

Via Bloomberg, here's what Wall Street was expecting:

Nonfarm payrolls: +180,000
Unemployment rate: 4.7%
Average hourly earnings month-on-month: +0.2%
Average hourly earnings year-on-year: +2.7%
Average weekly hours worked: 34.4

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