Hiring Rebounded in March as Economy Added 196,000 Jobs

After a disappointing performance in February, the United States labor market showed signs of bouncing back today, with employers adding a better-than-expected 196,000 jobs in March.

The report surpassed economists’ forecasts of an additional 178,000 jobs. It was a marked increase from February, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded a gain of only 20,000 new positions — the weakest for job growth in 17 months. (Revised figures indicated an improvement of 33,000 jobs.)

The unemployment rate held steady at 3.8 percent — a near-five-decade low — while average hourly earnings climbed 3.2 percent from the previous year.

March saw a modest decline in retail jobs, which took losses of nearly 12,000. Sporting goods and miscellaneous stores had positive showings of 2,700 jobs and 1,100 jobs, respectively, which were largely offset by a drop of 7,200 in general merchandise stores.

The jobs report helped ease investors’ fears of an economic slowdown, with major benchmark indexes in the green. The Dow Jones Industrial Average traded nearly 70 points higher, or 0.25 percent, led by Nike, which announced today a surprising endorsement deal with No. 1 tennis star Naomi Osaka. Both the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite grew 0.3 percent.

The rebound comes during a rocky start to the year, particularly for the retail industry, which leads all sectors in job cut announcements, according to outplacement firm Challenger Gray & Christmas. In February, discount footwear chain Payless ShoeSource became the latest in a string of retailers that have gone bankrupt and was forced to lay off a sizable number of workers.

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