On Friday, the Labor Department reported that 98,000 jobs were added to the U.S. economy in March, while the unemployment rate fell to 4.5 percent. The report missed expectations: Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal were expecting 175,000 jobs to be added. Here are the three most important takeaways.
- The weather may have played a role in the low numbers.
Well before the jobs report landed on Friday, analysts and economists were talking about the weather. Last month saw a snowstorm in the Northeast and Midwest during the week that the BLS does its survey, and snowstorms can keep people away from work, particularly in the construction sector. Economists at Goldman Sachs warned that the jobs data for March could be soft due to the weather factor. Conversely, unseasonably warm weather might have boosted the numbers for February.
On the other hand, the March jobs report saw big losses in the retail sector, which wouldn’t be largely weather-related. Retail bankruptcies are on their way to a post-recession high, with 9 retailers already filing for Chapter 11 in 2017, and several department stores have announced store closings as part of downsizing. BLS reported that employment in retail was down 30,000 jobs. With Payless ShoeSource closing some 400 stores in the country for April, the “retailpocolypse” might show up again next month.