The March jobs report released today came in well under expectations, with an estimated 103,000 new jobs created in March versus the 193,000 that had been expected. Markets reacted negatively in early trading, with the Dow Jones plunging over 300 points by noon. That caps a roller-coaster week of trading that has seen renewed turbulence in stock markets.
The unemployment rate remained at 4.1 percent for the sixth straight month, which ordinarily would be a welcome sign. Among the sectors seeing gains in employment were professional business services, manufacturing, and healthcare. Construction and retail trade saw declines, which many analysts chalked up to harsh winter weather in many areas of the country.
Previous months’ data was revised too, with January’s job numbers revised downward from 239,000 to 176,000 and February’s number revised upward from 313,000 to 326,000. Those revisions may also have weighed on markets, as total job growth this year then has been less than initially reported.
Adding to investors’ worries were renewed fears of a trade war, as China retaliated this week against the tariffs placed by the Trump administration. President Trump responded to that move with threats of another $100 billion tariff plan, prompting China to threaten to hit back yet again.
China has thus far placed tariffs on numerous US agricultural exports, subjecting them to 25 percent tariffs in order to reach a $50 billion total tariff plan. US goods that will be subject to Chinese tariffs will include soybeans, corn, cotton, wine, whiskey, orange juice, and beef, along with many types of vehicles.
China’s tariffs are attempting to spread the pain across the United States, affecting both agricultural areas and Rust Belt areas that heavily supported Trump in the 2016 election. While American exporters will suffer as a result of the tariff retaliation, businesses in South America and Europe could see their exports to China boosted as a result of the Chinese government’s actions.