US unemployment drops to 3.6% in March

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US employers added 431,000 jobs in March as the Omicron-fuelled Covid-19 surge fades, with the unemployment rate dropping to 3.6 per cent, the Labour Department reported.

Job growth was notably in leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, retail trade, and manufacturing, according to a report released on Friday by the Department’s Bureau of Labour Statistics (BLS).

Average hourly earnings for all employees on private non-farm payrolls rose by 13 cents, or 0.4 per cent, to $31.73 in March, the BLS report showed.

Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by 5.6 per cent.

Recent data from the labour market showed that the consumer price index in February rose 0.8 per cent from the previous month, surging 7.9 per cent from a year earlier, the largest 12-month hike in four decades.

Data from the Commerce Department released on Thursday showed that core personal consumption expenditures (PCE), which excludes the volatile food and energy prices, jumped 0.4 per cent in February, up 5.4 per cent from the same period last year, also marking the biggest jump in nearly four decades.

The core PCE, the Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation gauge, is well above the Fed’s 2 per cent target on inflation.

The BLS report showed that the unemployment rate dropped by 0.2 percentage point to 3.6 per cent in March, after dropping by 0.2 percentage point in February. This measure was slightly above the pre-pandemic level of 3.5 per cent.

It also showed that the labour force participation rate, at 62.4 per cent, changed little in March, still one percentage point below the pre-pandemic level of 63.4 per cent.

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