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The people who control corporate America’s purse strings are worried — and pockets of weakness in the March jobs report fueled fears that this anxiety is starting to create a drag on the labor market.

Market watchers breathed a sigh of relief when the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced Friday that the economy added 196,000 jobs in March and upward revisions to January and February figures added another 14,000 jobs. The unemployment rate stayed at 3.8 percent. “Further sharp declines in unemployment are unlikely, assuming a gradual increase in participation,” Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, wrote in a note to clients.

“The three-month moving average at 180,000 is exactly where we’d expect it to be,” said Josh Wright, chief economist at iCIMS. “I think we’re heading closer to the 150,000 range over the next few months.”

Although a wide variety of industries saw job gains, labor market experts said the kinds of jobs that are being shed reveal where the economy is beginning to show strain.

“There was some very weak job growth for some blue-collar sector jobs,” said Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist at, pointing to anemic growth in sectors like transportation and mining. “The most concerning thing really… is seeing the loss of jobs in manufacturing, which we’ve all been on red alert for,” Wright said, noting weakness in durable goods jobs in particular. “That’s not a good sign for investment in this country.”

“The areas where we’re seeing [cuts] the most are retail, autos, and energy — those are all areas where there have been big changes in consumer preferences,” said Andrew Challenger, vice president at executive outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Higher labor and input costs, along with decreasing demand for American exports — side effects of the ongoing tensions between the U.S. and its main trading partners — are weighing on these industries, leaving them with little margin for error. “There are reasons those companies are making those decisions outside immediate economic forecasts, but I think it probably is a contributing factor,” Challenger said.

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