The U.S. economy added just 98,000 non-farm jobs in March, falling significantly short of the 185,000 new jobs economists polled by MarketWatch had predicted. Despite the weak gains, the unemployment rate fell to 4.5 percent from 4.7 percent, hitting the lowest level in nearly a decade. The Labor Department's Friday report also cut the estimate of February job gains from 235,000 down to 219,000, and January's gains from 238,000 to 216,000.
Hiring exceeded expectations in those months, bolstering the theory that President Trump's promises to cut taxes and reduce regulations on businesses would give the economy a temporary bump. Wages rose in March by 0.2 percent to an average of $26.14 an hour. Analysts said the sharp slowdown in hiring after a strong first two months in 2017 might reflect that hiring is getting back to normal as employers raise wages to attract and keep talent as the pool of the unemployed dwindles.