Fed’s Barkin: “That’s a quite strong jobs report”

(Reuters) – Richmond Federal Reserve Bank President Thomas Barkin on Friday said the unexpected surge in employment in March and drop in the unemployment rate made for a “quite strong jobs report.”

“Unemployment is at 3.8%. It’s been 26 months in a row with unemployment below 4%,” Barkin said at an event in Maryland. “That’s the first time that’s happened since the late ’60s. So the job market is very strong.”

Barkin said companies are reluctant to layoff workers even with consumption showing signs of moderating because the experience of the ultra-tight job market in the early months of the pandemic remain fresh in employers’ minds.

Shortly before Barkin spoke, the Labor Department had reported that a greater-than-expected 303,000 jobs had been created in March – the most since last May – and that the unemployment rate had dropped to 3.8% from 3.9%.

The remarks from Barkin, a voter this year on Fed interest rate policy, also came a day after he told Reuters that he was finding it hard to reconcile the breadth of inflation he was been observing with the “kind of progress you’d want to make” in returning overall inflation to the Fed’s 2% target.

Investors are increasingly on the fence about when the Fed will begin cutting interest rates from the current level of 5.25%-to-5.50%, where they’ve been since July. The most recent projections from Fed officials still showed the majority of policymakers expect three, one-quarter-percentage-point cuts by the end of this year.

(Reporting By Dan Burns)