The labor market has softened in several aspects. Payroll jobs increased a mere 126,000 in March after increases of 264,000 in February and 201,000 in January. January and February were revised down a net 69,000. Market expectations for March were for a 247,000 increase.
The unemployment rate held steady at 5.5 percent and matched expectations. The labor force participation rate edged down marginally to 62.7 percent from 62.8 percent in February.
Turning back to the establishment survey, private payrolls increased 129,000 in March after a 264,000 boost the month before. Analysts forecast 240,000. In March, employment continued to trend up in professional and business services, health care, and retail trade, while employment in mining declined.
Employment in other major industries, including construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, information, financial activities, and government, showed little change over the month.
Average hourly earnings rose 0.3 percent, topping expectations for 0.2 percent. The average workweek slipped to 34.5 hours versus 34.6 in February and coming in below forecasts for 34.6 hours
The latest employment report clearly is soft and will add to arguments by Fed doves to delay rate hikes.