The US economy roared into 2017, adding 238,000 jobs in January and 235,000 jobs in February. But with the Labor Department’s March unemployment report, released on Friday, that strong start seems to be sputtering. 

Economists had expected that hiring would cool off, projecting an increase of about 180,000 new jobs. But the Bureau of Labor Statistics’s establishment survey fell short of even that projection, finding that total nonfarm payroll increased by just 98,000 jobs last month. (Its household survey showed a 326,000-person drop in unemployment, but economists consider the establishment survey, which has a larger sample size and focuses on employers, to be a more accurate measure.)

Last month’s hiring dip was likely felt by many of the 7.2 million Americans currently unemployed. But while March’s employment results were disappointing, they don’t mean that the nation’s long-running pattern of job growth has ended.

“I think it’s a little bit surprising … that it came in as low as 98…

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