US employers notched another solid month of hiring in March by adding a higher-than-expected 215,000 jobs, driven by large gains in the construction, retail, and health care industries, the AP reports. Despite the jump, the Labor Department said Friday that the unemployment rate ticked up to 5% from 4.9%. But that increase includes some good news: More Americans came off the sidelines to look for work, though not all found jobs. The figures suggest that employers remain confident enough in their business prospects to add staff, even as overall growth has slowed since last winter. Steady hiring is also contributing to higher pay, which rose a modest 2.3% from a year earlier to $25.43. That figure has increased since the early years of the recovery but is below a peak of 2.6% reached in December.
Sluggish wage growth has been a weak spot in the economy and a source of frustration for many workers since the Great Recession ended in 2009. Paychecks typically grow at a 3.5% pace in a strong economy. Construction firms added 37,000 jobs, likely aided by warmer weather. That helped offset another month of job losses in manufacturing, which has been hit by slower growth overseas, and mining, which includes the oil and gas drilling sector. Low oil prices have cost that industry 185,000 jobs since September 2014. Meanwhile, the MoneyBeat team at the Wall Street Journal has deemed Friday "datageddon" for all of the additional info scheduled to be released, including manufacturing data from the US, China, and Europe and an update from the University of Michigan's Consumer Sentiment Index. (Read more jobs report stories.)