Employers in the U.S. added fewer jobs than forecast in March, underscoring Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke’s concern that recent gains may not be sustained without a pickup in growth.
The 120,000 increase in payrolls, the fewest in five months, followed a revised 240,000 gain in February that was bigger than first estimated, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The March increase was less than the most pessimistic forecast in a Bloomberg News survey in which the median estimate called for a 205,000 rise. Unemployment fell to 8.2 percent, the lowest since January 2009, from 8.3 percent.
Strengthening demand is prompting companies like Ford Motor Co., the second-biggest U.S. automaker, to bring in more workers. The Dearborn, Michigan-based manufacturer boosted its 2012 sales forecast to 14.5 million to 15 million vehicles from a previous projection of 13.5 million to 14.5 million.
“During the fourth quarter of last year it was very quiet,” he said in a March 27 telephone interview. “Then at the beginning of the year the job market just turned on.”