Hiring rebounds as US adds a solid 196,000 jobs

Hiring rebounded in March as U.S. employers added a solid 196,000 jobs, up sharply from February's scant gain and evidence that many businesses still want to hire despite signs the economy is slowing.

The Labor Department says the unemployment rate stayed at 3.8%, near the lowest level in almost 50 years. Wage growth slowed a bit, as average hourly pay increased 3.2% from a year earlier. That is down from February's gain of 3.4%, which was the best in a decade.

The figures suggest that February's meager job growth, which was revised to 33,000 from an initial 20,000, was a temporary blip and that businesses are confident the economy remains on a firm footing. Still, the U.S. faces several challenges, including cautious consumers, slower growth in business investment, and a U.S.-China trade war that is contributing to slower growth overseas.

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A random survey of 2,000 Americans has produced a surprisingly strong track record of forecasting the health of the job market over time.

At the moment, it points to a solid job gain for March in the monthly employment report the government will issue Friday. But it suggests that hiring could slow later this year.

The survey, a gauge of consumer confidence produced by the Conference Board, a research group, goes beyond asking respondents about the state of the economy. It also asks whether they think jobs are "plentiful" or "hard to get."

The collective responses to those questions can foreshadow how job growth and the unemployment rate will move over time. When more people say jobs are plentiful and fewer say they're hard to get, hiring typically rises.

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