In its closely watched monthly report, the Bureau of Labor Affairs announced Friday that the private sector generated a seasonally adjusted 121,000 jobs in March. The disastrous public sector job losses of the past two years have tapered off significantly, and the 1,000 government workers laid off in March only brought the total jobs created for the month down to 120,000. A weak showing.
The figure was 83,000 less than a consensus of experts had forecast and less than half the three-month average, the weakest March showing in three years and the slowest job growth in five months. The official unemployment rate fell to 8.2 percent.
The civilian labor force participation rate fell slightly to 63.7 percent and the employment-population ratio fell to 58.5 percent.
Data showed that those with jobs worked fewer hours.
The report was another reminder of the fragility of the economic upturn that has left millions out of work for longer than at any time since the 1930s. The question now is whether this is a one-month anomaly or the beginning of a fresh trend after several months of comparatively solid job growth.
“We see a lack of sustainability in terms of strong job growth,” Tony Crescenzi, a strategist at Pacific Investment Management Co. in Newport Beach, California, said in a radio interview on ‘Bloomberg Surveillance” with Tom Keene and Ken Prewitt. “This is still not strong enough to create escape velocity, which is to say an economy strong enough to make it on its own without additional monetary stimulus from the Federal Reserve.”
The number of officially unemployed is now 12.7 million with 5.3 million of those having been out of work for six months or longer. An alternative measure of unemployment called U6 includes part-time workers who want full-time work and some but not all of the millions of people who have become too discouraged to look for work. That number fell from 14.9 percent to 14.5 percent.
Revisions changed growth in payroll employment for January from 284,000 to 275,000 and in February from 227,000 to 240,000.
Here’s what the job numbers have looked like for March in the most recent five years:
March 2008: -80,000
March 2009: -652,000
March 2010: +208,000
March 2011: +194,000
March 2012: +120,000
While the survey of business establishments showed the 120,000 increase, the BLS’s monthly household survey (Current Population Survey) showed the number of jobs fell by 31,000. The CPS number is less focused upon because it is highly volatile. But when the economy is changing gears—falling into recession or beginning to build steam after a downturn—some analysts believe it provides a better view of where things may be headed in the next several months.
The BLS jobs report is the product of a pair of surveys, one of business establishments and the Current Population Survey of households. The establishment survey determines how many new jobs were added. The CPS provides data that determine the official “headline” unemployment rate, also known as U3. That’s the number that is now at 8.2 percent.
Among other changes detailed in today’s job report:
• Retail: -34,000
• Financial: +15,000
• Constructon: -7,000
• Transportation & warehousing:
• Leisure and hospitality: +37,000
• Professional & business services: +31,000
• Health care: +26,000
• Manufacturing: +37,000
• The average workweek (for production and non-supervisory workers) fell to 34.5 hours.
• Average manufacturing hours fell to 40.7
• The average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 5 cents to $ 23.39. Over the past year such earnings have risen 2.1 percent, compared with an inflation rate of 2.9 percent.