(CN) – American employers added 196,000 new jobs in March, dwarfing the paltry gains from the month before and showing that businesses are still hiring despite worries about an economic slowdown.
Last month’s employment gains marked a significant increase over the revised 33,000 jobs added in February and exceeded analysts’ predictions of roughly 179,000 new jobs.
The unemployment rate stayed at 3.8% while wage growth slowed slightly in March. Average hourly wages were up 3.2% from a year ago, compared to the 3.4% one-year gain reported in February.
The service sector saw the biggest gains in employment. Health care added 47,000 jobs, restaurants and bars added 27,000, and professional and business services like engineering and accounting gained 37,000 new positions. Construction companies added 16,000 new jobs while manufacturing lost 6,000, according to a Labor Department report.
Job growth in the U.S. has averaged 180,000 new positions a month so far this year, which is a healthy number but below last year’s monthly average of 223,000.
The Labor Department reported Thursday that the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell to the lowest level in 49 years last week.
Most economic indicators show slower growth in 2019, so hiring is likely to fall behind the pace seen last year.
Experts predict the U.S. economy will grow about 2% to 2.5% this year, compared to 2.9% in 2018.