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Job growth eases to 6-month low after blockbuster February

On a day that witnessed tariff tensions re-emerging after the Trump Administration warned of imposing tariffs on more Chinese products, a report from the Labor Department showed employment growth eased more than expected to a six-month low in March.

The private sector added 103,000 new jobs in March, much lower than 326,000 recorded in February which was revised up from 313,000. Meanwhile, overall wage growth accelerated to 8 cents in March from 3 cents a month earlier. The rise in wages was in line with estimates and reflects the positive underlying trend in the labor market.

It is encouraging that employment increased every month in the past seven-and-half years consistently, and the unemployment rate is stabilizing at historically low levels.  Moreover, the average employment growth since the beginning of the year is on the upside.

Well, the market is unlikely to be swayed by the seemingly dismal job growth data, considering the tough comparison with February when seasonal factors including favorable weather created conditions conducive for hiring, especially for the retail and building sectors.  The muted hiring in those sectors in March is attributable mainly to the inclement weather.

Though stocks were down soon after the announcement, they recovered as trading progressed during the day, in a sign that the market is more focused on the tariff jab and Beijing’s reaction to it.

Now, all that matters is how the Federal Reserve is going to factor in the emerging job scenario when it meets in June to review the monetary policy. In all likelihood, the central bank would exercise restraint and stick to its three-hike policy. One thing that could induce a shift in Fed chief Jerome Powell’s stance is a full-fledged trade war with China.

A report from the Labor Department showed employment growth eased more than expected to a six-month low in March

Markets opened lower on Friday when the Chinese government warned of retaliation after President Trump hinted at imposing additional tariffs on Chinese commodities worth $100 billion.  Meanwhile, a representative of the China government said the country was ‘fully prepared’ to publish the list of U.S. commodities on which it would impose duty if Washington goes ahead with its plan.

In such a scenario, the economy would come under pressure from inflation, high-interest rates and widespread deterioration of sentiment among enterprises.

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