US adds just 98K jobs; unemployment falls to a low 4.5 pct.


WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. employers added just 98,000 jobs last month, the fewest in a year, though the unemployment rate fell to a nearly 10-year low of 4.5 percent.

The rate fell because nearly a half-million more Americans reported finding jobs, the Labor Department said today.

Economists had expected a falloff in hiring in March after job gains in January and February had averaged a robust 218,000. Still, the drop was worse than expected.

It its report, the government also revised down the job growth for January and February by a combined 38,000. The sizable gains in those months had been fueled partly by strong hiring in construction, which occurred because of unseasonably warm winter weather.

In March, construction companies added just 6,000 jobs, the fewest in seven months. Retailers, suffering from the shift to online shopping, slashed 30,000 jobs. Education and health care services added the fewest jobs for that category in 15 months.

In the past three months, employers have added an average of 178,000 jobs, roughly the same as last year's pace.

"Job growth this year is running close to last year's pace and is running well ahead of what is needed to keep up with labor force growth," said Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC Financial Services.

The report showed that large numbers of teenagers, women and Latinos found jobs last month. The unemployment rate for teens dropped to 13.7 percent from 15 percent.

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