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A middle-skill worker grinds steel at the IDEAL Group factory in Detroit.
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
The grind is good.
THE BIG PICTURE

The US economy added a third of the jobs it did last month—and that’s just fine

By Preeti Varathan

The latest numbers from the US Labor Department show that the jobs picture in America is largely unchanged. Overall, that’s positive—except for that nagging problem of slow growth in wages.

The good news remains the same: March was the 90th consecutive month of job gains.

Unemployment stands at 4.1%. The rates for men, women, teens, white Americans and black Americans showed little change in March. The labor force participation rate, a measure of the share of people who are working or want to relative to the whole population, also stood still, at 63%.

After the US added an eye-popping 326,000 jobs in February, the new number today (April 6)—a mere 103,000 jobs added—can feel disappointing. Economists, according to Bloomberg, had expected a strong 183,000 jobs. What’s more, the Bureau of Labor Statistics revised its January and February employment numbers with new data: The US added 50,000 fewer jobs in the first two months of 2018 than originally reported.

The big picture, though, is not grim. On average, the US has added 188,000 jobs each month in the past year, and an even larger 202,000 jobs a month in 2018.

The jobs report is eagerly awaited by Wall Street and Washington, and it almost always moves the market. The month-to-month numbers are less important for anyone who doesn’t make a living as a trader. And they’re finicky—jobs numbers can jump around because of anything from bad weather to an oddly timed holiday. So If someone asks you to guess the monthly jobs report number, just say 200,000. It’s become a pretty safe bet.

Earnings bounced back a bit in March, climbing 2.7% from a year earlier. Still, on a long-term basis, wages remain weak (paywall) for an economy where unemployment is so low.

The Trump economy might be surging on the back of tax cuts, spending, and job creation, but it’s still missing on that one key ingredient.