A consensus of experts surveyed ahead of time by Bloomberg News had forecast the BLS would report 193,000 new jobs had been added in March. Even the most pessimistic advance appraisal, however, didn't come close to the actual number. The official unemployment rate fell to 7.6%, but that was wholly a function of a reduced workforce.
The private sector expanded by 95,000 jobs. Governments at all levels lost a total of 7,000 jobs, but 14,000 were lost in federal employment, so local and state governments have been doing some hiring. Last March, the BLS reported a seasonally adjusted gain of 205,000 private- and public-sector jobs.
One good bit of news was that the BLS revised its previously reported growth in payroll employment for January from 119,000 to 148,000 and for February from 236,000 to 268,000. The BLS counted 11.7 million Americans as unemployed. Those unemployed for six months or more fell to 4.6 million. The civilian labor force participation ratio fell to 63.3 percent, its lowest level October 1978; the employment-population ratio fell to 58.5 percent. That is is within the range it has been in for the past four years but it had previously not been so low since 1983. Some 496,000 Americans left the labor force in March.
In BLS jargon, the added 88,000 jobs constitute "U3." But the bureau also measures with an alternative gauge called "U6." This tallies workers who are part-time not by choice but for "economic reason," meaning they want full-time jobs but can't find them, and some but not all Americans who want jobs but have stopping looking for one. The U6 rate for March dropped to 13.8 percent. Add up the 11.7 million who are officially unemployed (U3), the 7.6 million underemployed (U6), and the 6.72 million who are not in the labor force but say they want a job, and you have 26 million unemployed and underemployed Americans.
At the current pace, the increase in jobs means just getting back to where the nation was when the recession began 65 months ago will take until 2018 or later, more than a decade all told. But in the post-World War II era, the shortest time between one recession and the next was just under nine years. Critics have pointed out that, in one of the more insidious forms of class warfare, productivity gains have been accruing almost exclusively to employers not workers. Median household income now is eight percent less than it was in 2000. And corporate profits have doubled. In short, even those Americans lucky enough to have jobs are not, on average, faring as well as they were before the Great Recession struck.
The federal budget sequester began March 1, and since the BLS closes the data for its report on the 12th of each month, it's a little early for the impact from that to be hitting very hard. But the Congressional Budget Office estimates that if it continues to the end of the fiscal year, it could cost 750,000 jobs. But some economists scoff at this, saying the CBO's methodology is off and, at worst, the sequester might force the shedding of 300,000 jobs. Split the difference, and the economy could lose two to three months worth of job growth between now and September 30.
For more details about today's jobs report, please continue reading below the fold.
As I have previously explained:
The government's BLS jobs report is the product of a pair of surveys, one of more than 410,000 business establishments called Current Employment Statistics, and one called the Current Population Survey, which questions 60,000 householders. The establishment survey determines how many new jobs were added, always calculated on a seasonally adjusted basis. The CPS provides data that determine the official "headline" unemployment rate, also known as "U3." That's the number which is now 7.7 percent.Because of this range of possibilities, the economy could have lost as many as 12,000 jobs in March or could have added as many as 188,000. As better data are obtained, the BLS revises its count each month for the previous two months. Today's numbers will be fine-tuned in the May and June reports just as January's and February's were revised substantially upward by today's.
The BLS report only provides a snapshot of what's happening at a single point in time. The jobs-created-last-month-numbers that it reports are not "real." Not because of a conspiracy, but because BLS statisticians apply seasonal adjustments to the raw data, estimate the number of jobs created by the "birth" and "death" of businesses, use other filters. In the fine print, they tell us that the actual number of newly created jobs reported is actually plus or minus 100,000.
Every month, one or two days ahead of the BLS report, Automatic Data Processing, one of the nation's largest payroll services companies, also provides a snapshot of newly added seasonally adjusted jobs created solely by the private sector. On Wednesday ADP reported that the economy generated 158,000 new private-sector jobs in March.
Also on Wednesday, TrimTabs Investment Research estimated that 156,000 new jobs had been added to the economy in March. The firm calculates payroll job growth based on daily deposits of income taxes being withheld from people's paychecks.
Here's what the job growth numbers looked like in March for the previous 10 years. These data have been recalculated via the BLS's annual benchmark revisions:
March 2003: - 215,000
March 2004: + 333,000
March 2005: + 135,000
March 2006: + 280,000
March 2007: + 186,000
March 2008: - 79,000
March 2009: - 830,000
March 2010: - 154,000
March 2011: + 205,000
March 2012: + 205,000
March 2013: + 88,000
Among other changes in today's job report:
• Professional services: + 51,000
• Leisure & hospitality: + 13,000
• Health care: + 23,000
• Retail trade: - 24,000
• Construction: + 18,000
• The average workweek (for production and non-supervisory workers) rose 0.1 hour to 34.6 hours.
• Average manufacturing hours fell 0.1 to 40.8 hours.
• The average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose 1 cent from February's revised figure to $23.82.