U.S. job growth slowed to 120,000 in March after three straight months of 200,000-plus gains, the Labor Department said in a report with implications for consumer spending, housing markets and freight volumes.
Journal of Commerce Economist Mario O. Moreno said tepid employment growth, if it continues, could threaten the fragile recovery in housing markets that underpin shipments of goods such as furniture and home furnishings.
Furniture imports, which account for about 10 percent of U.S. containerized imports tracked by PIERS, were down 3.6 percent to 285,428 twenty-foot-equivalent units in the first two months of this year.
Consumer spending has recovered in recent months, but high unemployment has been a drag on home sales, which remain weak despite low mortgage interest rates.
The March unemployment rate fell to 8.2 percent, the lowest since January 2009, from 8.3 percent. However, the decline came only because fewer people were actively seeking work.
Private-sector jobs increased 121,000 in March while public-sector jobs declined about 1,000, continuing a trend in which companies have added jobs while public-sector employment has shrunk.
Automakers and other manufacturers added 37,000 jobs in March. Manufacturers have added 470,000 jobs since January 2010. Retailers cut nearly 34,000 jobs in March, and temporary-help firms eliminated nearly 8,000 positions.