March jobs report: What to expect on Friday

By U.S. EconomyFOXBusiness

Steve Forbes on why job growth slowed in February

Forbes Media Chairman Steve Forbes on the February jobs report.

The U.S. economy is expected to have added 180,000 jobs in March, on the heels of a disappointing month for job creation that spurred renewed fears about an impending economic slowdown.

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The Department of Labor will release its highly anticipated payroll data -- the first to offer a glimpse into the overall health of the U.S. economy and labor market in the second quarter -- early Friday morning.

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Wall Street will be closely watching on Friday for signs of a potential downturn, particularly following February’s disappointing report, when the U.S. economy added a meager 20,000 jobs (significantly less than the 180,000 that experts forecasted).

Average hourly wages, however, rose by 11 cents to $27.66, following a 2-cent gain in February. That’s a 3.4 percent compared to the year-ago period, a rate of increase that hasn’t been seen since April 2009. Stronger wage gains reflect a tightening labor market and a shrinking pool of labor that makes it more difficult for employers to find qualified workers.

The unemployment rate is expected to hold steady at 3.8 percent, according to analysts polled by Refinitiv. Average hourly earnings, which will remain in focus as investors watch for potential signs of inflation, are anticipated to rise 3.4 percent from a year ago, matching February’s increase.

Hiring in the private sector only grew by 129,000 jobs in March, the slowest employment increase in 18 months, according to the ADP National Employment Report. Analysts initially forecast an increase of 170,000 jobs.

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"If employment growth weakens much further," Moody’s Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi said in a statement, "unemployment will begin to rise."

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