U.S. Unemployment Rate Declines Despite Weak Job Growth

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. economy added 88,000 jobs in March, according to date released today by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate dipped 0.1 percentage points to 7.6 percent, influenced by a drop in the size of the American workforce.

According to seasonally-adjusted numbers, 663,000 Americans dropped out of the workforce last month. The current level of workforce participation is the lowest it’s been since 1979 as millions of unemployed Americans have given up searching for jobs.

The federal government counts 11.7 million people as unemployed, and more than a third of them – 4.6 million – have been out of work for 27 weeks or more. Another 2.3 million are counted as marginally attached to the labor force because they are not employed and had searched for a job at some time in the past 12 months, but not in the last four weeks.

Acting Secretary of Labor Seth D. Harris tried to look to the bright side while acknowledging that the economy is not where it needs to be yet. “Private employment has now increased for each of the last 37 months, with 6.5 million jobs created over that time, ” he said. “So while we have come a long way in just a few years’ time, the economy is not yet clicking on all cylinders. We need to work together, Congress and the administration, to unleash its full potential. Americans are counting on Washington to be a catalyst for growth, not a roadblock. That means solving our fiscal challenges in a balanced way, with both responsible cuts and targeted investments to help workers get back on their feet.”

In March, employment increased in professional and business services and in health care, while retail trade employment

Professional and business services added 51,000 jobs in March. Over the past 12 months, employment in this industry has grown by 533,000. Within professional and business services, accounting and bookkeeping services added 11,000 jobs over the month, and
employment continued to trend up in temporary help services and in several other component industries.

Job growth in health care continued in March, with a gain of 23,000, similar to the prior 12-month average. Within health care, employment increased by 15,000 in ambulatory health care services, such as home health care, and by 8,000 in hospitals.

Construction employment continued to trend up in March (+18,000). Job growth in this industry picked up this past fall; since September, the industry has added 169,000 jobs. In March, employment continued to expand among specialty trade contractors
(+23,000). Employment in specialty trade contractors has increased by 128,000 since September, with the gain about equally split between the residential and nonresidential components.

Within leisure and hospitality, employment in food services and drinking places continued to trend up in March (+13,000). Over the past year, the industry added 262,000 jobs.

In March, retail trade employment declined by 24,000. The industry had added an average of 32,000 jobs per month over the prior 6 months. In March, job declines occurred in clothing and clothing accessories stores (-15,000), building material and garden supply
stores (-10,000), and electronics and appliance stores (-6,000).

Within government, U.S. Postal Service employment fell by 12,000 in March. Employment in other major industries, including mining, manufacturing, wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, information, financial activities, state government, and local government, showed little change over the month.

The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for January was revised from +119,000 to +148,000, and the change for February was revised from +236,000 to +268,000.

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