US maintains solid job growth pace as winter fades

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 April, 2014, 1:07am
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 April, 2014, 1:54am

US employers have maintained a solid pace of hiring for a second consecutive month, providing further evidence the American economy is shifting into higher gear after being held back by a brutally cold winter.

Nonfarm payrolls increased by 192,000 new jobs last month after rising by 197,000 in February, the labour department said yesterday. The unemployment rate was unchanged at 6.7 per cent, as Americans flooded the labour market.

Economists had expected employment to increase by 200,000 last month and the unemployment rate to fall one-tenth of a percentage point.

The payrolls count for January and February was revised to show 37,000 more jobs created during those months than previously reported.

The labour force participation rate, or the proportion of working-age Americans who have a job or are looking for one, rose to a six-month high of 63.2 per cent, from 63 per cent in February.

An unusually cold and snowy winter slammed the US economy at the end of last year and the beginning of this year. Growth was further undercut by efforts by businesses to trim bloated inventories, the expiration of benefits for the long-term unemployed and cuts to food stamps.

But data ranging from manufacturing and services sector activity to car sales have signalled strength in the economy as the first quarter ended.

The steady pace of job gains should allow the US Federal Reserve to continue scaling back its monetary stimulus and keep overnight interest rates near zero for a while.

Fed chairwoman Janet Yellen has argued the central bank needs to maintain a highly accommodative monetary policy for some time to eliminate slack in the labour market.

The private sector accounted for all the employment gains last month, with government adding no jobs. The private sector has now recouped all the jobs lost during the recent recession.

Manufacturing payrolls fell 1,000, breaking seven months of gains. Factory job growth has been slowing since surging in November. But with car sales accelerating sharply in March, hiring could rebound in the months ahead.

Construction employment increased by 19,000 - the third consecutive month of job gains for the sector even though the housing market is still soft.