US jobs data shows steady growth exiting harsh winter

WASHINGTON (AFP): US jobs growth plodded along at a solid but unspectacular pace in March as the economy appeared to be emerging from one of the coldest winters in recent memory, government data showed. The world’s largest economy added 192,000 jobs in March — a shade below analysts’ average estimate of 195,000 net new jobs — and the unemployment rate held steady at 6.7 percent, the Labor Department said. Still, the overall picture was more upbeat about a first quarter plagued by unusually bad winter weather in much of the country.  The department revised job growth for the prior two months up a net 37,000. February’s number was hiked by 22,000 to 197,000.
The March jobless rate, matching February’s 6.7 percent, disappointed expectations of a dip. The number of unemployed held steady at 10.5 million. Both measures have shown little movement since December.
The March pace of job creation was better than the average of 183,000 over the prior 12 months.
“The post-winter rebound we hoped for did not happen, but the winter hit was smaller than previously believed,” said Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics.
“Payrolls have now returned to their pre-winter trend of just under 200,000 per month, more than enough to keep the unemployment rate trending down, unless the labor force begins to expand more rapidly.”
The markets took the mostly in-line numbers in stride, but nevertheless ended the day lower under a sell-off, particularly in the tech market.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.96 percent and the Nasdaq Composite Index dived 2.60 percent.
The euro edged up against the dollar.
“Overall, the employment data won’t change any perceptions that the economy is growing at a decent but sluggish pace,” said.
“More importantly, the data also won’t change any perceptions as to how the Fed might act.”
More people were employed and actively seeking jobs in March, suggesting increased confidence in job prospects. The participation rate rose 0.2 percentage points to 63.2 percent.
March’s job gains were exclusively in the private sector, though the number of new private nonfarm payrolls came in well below the 205,000 anticipated. Government added no jobs following a gain of 9,000 in February.
The vast services sector led growth with 57,000 new jobs. Gains were registered in health, food and beverage services and construction, while manufacturing shed 1,000 jobs.
The average workweek jumped to 34.5 hours, wiping out declines over the past three months.
Average hourly earnings edged down by one cent to $24.30, following a nine cent increase in February.
The White House welcomed the steady improvement in job growth over the past year but said more official efforts were needed to encourage hiring.
“While today’s data indicates that the recovery is continuing to unfold, the President still believes further steps must be taken to strengthen growth and boost job creation,” Jason Furman, head of President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, said in a statement.
- Fed tightening at bay -
Economists said the largely anticipated March jobs report should have little impact on the Federal Reserve’s measured reduction of its stimulus program that started in January and is expected to wind up before the year ends, and would keep any hike in its near-zero key interest rate at bay.
The US central bank has cut $10 billion a month from its asset-purchase program, now at $55 billion. The Federal Open Market Committee is expected to lop off another $10 billion at its April 29 and 30 meeting.
The Fed is particularly concerned about the persistently high level of long-term unemployed amid the slow recovery from the Great Recession.
In March, the number of people jobless for 27 weeks or more barely budged at 3.7 million, accounting for 35.8 percent of the unemployed.
“The flat unemployment rate, helped by the rise in the participation rate, along with the tame earnings data... and the rise in involuntary part-time employment, will reinforce the case of Fed officials arguing that tightening is still a long way away,” said Jim O’Sullivan, chief US economist at High Frequency Economics.

Chinese man, Iranian indicted in US over Iran exports

WASHINGTON (AFP): A Chinese man, an Iranian and two Iranian firms were charged in the United States with conspiring to export devices to Iran that can serve to enrich uranium, an indictment unsealed Friday said. Sihai Cheng, 34, was arrested on February 7 at London’s Heathrow Airport. London’s Metropolitan Police force said Cheng had already appeared at a court in the capital and was awaiting his next appearance. US prosecutors say Shanghai-based Cheng conspired with Seyed Abolfazl Shahab Jamili of Tehran and the Iranian companies Nicaro Eng. Co. and Eyvaz Technic Manufacturing Co. to export US-made pressure transducers. 
The devices, which are a type of sensor, can be used in gas centrifuges to “convert natural uranium into a form that can be used for nuclear weapons,” the indictment said.
MKS Instruments Inc. in Andover, Massachusetts produced the parts. According to the indictment, Cheng would ship the transducers to Iran upon receiving them in China. Publicly available photographs of Iran’s Natanz enrichment facility show “numerous” MKS pressure transducers attached to Iran’s gas centrifuge cascades, the indictment said. Cheng began doing business with Jamili and Nicaro around November 2005 and had since sold the Iranian national thousands of Chinese-manufactured parts with nuclear applications, according to US prosecutors.
Jamili, in turn, informed Cheng via email that the customer for the parts was in fact Eyvaz, which was supplying the material to the Iranian government.
Cheng subsequently sent the parts directly to Eyvaz at times. The conspiracy to obtain the MKS pressure transducers began around February 2009 following a query from Eyvaz.
Between April 2009 and January 2011, Cheng then placed orders for more than 1,000 MKS pressure transducers for a value of more than $1.8 million.
Most orders included 30 to 100 units, as Jamili warned Cheng of “critical control condition and boycott by USA government,” the indictment said. Western powers and Israel suspect Iran is covertly pursuing a nuclear weapons capability alongside its civilian program, charges adamantly denied by Tehran.
Iran’s oil-reliant economy has struggled under US-led sanctions aimed at curtailing its nuclear ambitions. The so-called P5+1 group — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany — hopes to reach a final accord with Iran by July 20 to lift all sanctions in exchange for Iran scaling back its program to the point where it would be difficult if not impossible to develop nuclear weapons.


Dollar mixed following US jobs report

NEW YORK (AFP): The dollar had a mixed day after a US jobs report suggested the Federal Reserve is unlikely to hasten its timetable for tightening monetary policy. Near 2230 GMT, the dollar fell to 103.26 yen from 103.94 Thursday.  The euro bought $1.3704, down slightly from $1.3717. The euro fell to 141.50 yen from 142.61. Heading into Friday, analysts had predicted the dollar would rally if the US Department of Labor report showed the addition of more than 225,000 jobs in March, but retreat if the figure came in below 150,000. Instead, the report showed the US economy added 192,000 jobs in March, missing analyst expectations slightly and not suggesting a dramatic speeding up of the recovery. “If there were concerns that a strong labor print compounded by further signs of growing wage pressure would accelerate the Federal Reserve’s policy tightening cycle, fear no more,” said Christopher Vecchio, an analyst at DailyFX. David Song, another analyst at DailyFX, said the dollar could be in for more weakness against the yen if the Bank of Japan continues to resist more aggressive stimulus. “The BoJ is widely expected to preserve its current policy at the April 8 meeting as Governor Haruhiko Kuroda retains an upbeat tone for the Japanese economy,” Song wrote. Among other currency pairs, the British pound declined to $1.6578 from $1.6597. The dollar rose to 0.8918 Swiss franc from 0.8909.


Complaint centres in tehsils, districts for wheat growers
LAHORE (APP):The government has decided to set up complaint centres at tehsil, district and province level to redress the grievances of wheat growers. The centres would promptly respond to growers and ensure protection of their rights, a senior official of Punjab Food Department told APP here on Saturday. A citizen feedback system, digital monitoring system and other services of the government would be actively used to ensure transparency during the wheat procurement campaign which is being started from April, 15, he said. The government wants to completely eliminate the role of the middleman and safeguard interests of farmers, he said.
He said that the government had removed the time restriction at the procurement centres during wheat procurement and arrangements were also being made for sitting and others facilities like drinking water for farmers at the centres. He said the entire wheat produce would be procured from cultivators. A procurement target of 35 lakh metric ton has been set in the province for year 2014.



Goods worth over Rs 8 million traded across LoC

POONCH (NNI): Goods worth over Rs eighty lakh were traded across the Line of Control (LoC) between Azad Kashmir and Jammu and Kashmir at Chakan-Da-Bagh crossing point, officials said. As many as 25 trucks rolled out from the Trade Facilitation Centre (TFC) here to Azad Kashmir, they said, adding, these trucks carried bags of banana and herbs worth Rs 70,96,470. From Azad Kashmir, two trucks carrying bags of dry dates and almonds worth Rs 13,65,000 entered India, officials added. Officials from both sides monitored transportation of these goods twice during the day.