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Job growth bounced back in March, with an increase in employment of 196,000. February job growth was revised higher to 33,000; the initial report of 20,000 had sparked recession concerns. But employment gains have averaged 180,000 per month so far in 2019, well above the pace needed to keep up with underlying growth in the labor force, although below the 2018 average of 223,000.
Retail sales increased 1.6% in March, the biggest one-month gain since September 2017. Higher gasoline prices and good auto sales accounted for some of the increase, but sales excluding autos and gasoline were up a strong 0.9% over the month.
After a big 1.6% drop in retail sales in December, and weak growth in subsequent months, media reports questioned the durability of consumers given that the expansion is almost ten years old.
But with the excellent job market and consumer balance sheets in great shape, household spending will continue to push the economy forward throughout 2019. Total retail sales were up a solid 3.6% in March from one year earlier, with sales excluding autos and gasoline up by the same amount.
This gives the Federal Reserve room to keep interest rates low.
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