Nick Rummell

MANHATTAN (CN) — Jobs remain plentiful, with the labor market again seeing an uptick in employment, according to the monthly government report.

The U.S. economy added 303,000 jobs in March, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, much better than the roughly 200,000 analysts had predicted.

The gains also are better than the 275,000 jobs added in February, though that number was revised this month by 5,000 jobs. Those losses were more than offset by the revision to January’s job report, which was ramped up by 27,000 positions.

“This morning’s blowout jobs numbers show that the economy isn’t showing any signs of slowing down and consumer spending should be able to hold up in the near term,” said Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer at the Independent Advisor Alliance.

Others were more confused over what the data said about the employment situation. “With all these differentiating data points, I can’t honestly give you a conviction-filled bottom line on the state of the labor market,” Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Financial Group, wrote in an investor’s note. “Way too many confusing signals so help me out if you can.”

Most of the job gains came in the health care, government and construction sectors. Public sector employees gained 71,000 jobs, while construction saw a 39,000-job increase and the health care industry picked up more than 81,000 jobs.

Wages rose moderately, with average hourly earnings increasing by 12 cents in March and gaining 4.1% compared with a year ago.

The unemployment rate stayed put at 3.8%, with long-term unemployed also remaining little changed at about 1.2 million in March. On Thursday, the Labor Department’s weekly unemployment showed 221,000 people filed initial claims for the week ending March 30, slightly higher than the previous week but in line with the average the last several weeks.

The jobs report was significantly higher than payroll company ADP’s jobs report, which came out on Wednesday. That report found the private sector added 184,000 jobs last month, the biggest jump in hiring since July. The ADP numbers were about 34,000 higher than the median forecast; additionally, analysts revised the ADP jobs report for February up by about 15,000 jobs.

Wages also saw significant increases, with “job stayers” getting paid 5.1% more year-over-year while “job changers” saw a 10% increase year-over-year.

“March was surprising not just for the pay gains, but the sectors that recorded them,” said ADP Chief Economist Nela Richardson in a statement. “Inflation has been cooling, but our data shows pay is heating up in both goods and services.”

Construction, financial services and hospitality all registered big increases in the ADP data, gaining 33,000, 17,000, and 63,000 jobs, respectively. Mid-sized and large businesses represented nearly all the gains, picking up 93,000 and 87,000 jobs, respectively.

A third report bolstered the first two: The BLS job openings and labor turnover report, known as the JOLTS report, showed little change in job openings at just under 8.8 million in February. While the numbers are about the same as in January, they show a lower trajectory in job openings.

Job openings are now at their lowest since early 2021, with the fewest job openings in the retail sector since November 2014 — excluding the heart of the Covid pandemic. The layoff rate bumped up slightly but still remains below pre-pandemic levels.

The JOLTS report “is consistent with a labor market that is still quite healthy;” Fed officials are now “more cautious about rushing to cut interest rates,” noted Nancy Vanden Houten, lead economist at Oxford Economics.