US busi­nesses slow hir­ing, add 189,000 jobs in March: sur­vey


U.S. busi­nesses slowed their pace of hir­ing in March, a pri­vate sur­vey found. The slow­down sug­gests that fall­ing oil prices, a stronger dollar and harsh win­ter weather have gen­er­ated a broader eco­nomic slow­down.

Com­pa­nies added a sea­son­ally ad­justed 189,000 jobs last month, pay­roll pro­ces­sor ADP said Wed­nes­day. That’s the first month of gains un­der 200,000 jobs in 13 months, and it’s a decline from 214,000 jobs added in Fe­bru­ary.

“Job growth took a step back in March,” said Mark Zandi, chief econ­o­mist of Moody’s An­a­lyt­ics, which an­a­lyzed the sur­vey data.

Fall­ing oil prices would gen­er­ally lead to greater con­sumer spend­ing that fos­ters hir­ing. But so far, the steady decline to be­low US$50 a bar­rel — a more than 50 per­cent decline since June— has led to closed oil rigs, lay­offs and fewer or­ders for pipe­line and ma­chin­ery. That has been cou­pled with the dollar ris­ing in value against the euro and other cur­ren­cies, mak­ing man­u­fac­tur­ers prod­ucts less com­pet­i­tively priced abroad and crush­ing multi­na­tion­als.

The slow­down in hir­ing was largely con­cen­trated among firms with more than 1,000 em­ploy­ees that would likely have a global foot­print.

They added just 12,000 jobs last month, com­pared to 43,000 in Fe­bru­ary.

The con­struc­tion, fi­nan­cial and trade and trans­porta­tion sec­tors all re­ported adding jobs at a slower pace in March than Fe­bru­ary.

Man­u­fac­tur­ers shed 1,000 jobs in March, which likely re­flects the twin drags of fall­ing oil prices and a stronger dollar.

The fig­ures come just be­fore Fri­day’s gov­ern­ment re­port, which econ­o­mists fore­cast will show an in­crease of 250,000 jobs.

The ADP num­bers cover only pri­vate busi­nesses and some­times di­verge from the gov­ern­ment’s more com­pre­hen­sive re­port, which in­cludes gov­ern­ment agen­cies.

Sev­eral econ­o­mists say that the ADP sur­vey can be an un­re­li­able in­di­ca­tor of the gov­ern­ment jobs re­port.

Few econ­o­mists re­sponded to the March set­back by chang­ing their yearly fore­casts, in­clud­ing Moody’s An­a­lyt­ics’ Zandi. He still ex­pects con­sumer spend­ing to re­bound and the econ­omy to add jobs at an av­er­age monthly pace of 250,000, or 3 mil­lion for the year. This would rep­re­sent a solid im­prove­ment in the job mar­ket, although it would be less spec­tac­u­lar than the past four months when monthly gains av­er­aged 321, 500 jobs.

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