U.S. economy added 192,000 jobs in March; unemployment rate steady at 6.7%. Good news?

I typically post here about the monthly jobs numbers released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but I’ve decided not to try to post so quickly upon the release of the estimates on the first Friday of each month. I’m going to try to do a little fuller analysis, instead.

From Friday’s release:

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 192,000 in March, and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 6.7 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Employment grew in professional and business services, in health care, and in mining and logging.

First, keep in mind that these two data points come from different surveys: the headline employment number comes from the survey of payroll establishments (i.e., employers) and the unemployment rate is among the information about labor force characteristics calculated from the a survey of households (i.e., individuals).

192,000 is pretty solid job growth — and that number confirms the overwhelming amount of data that shows the U.S. in a steady jobs recovery.

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More info from the establishment survey, with emphasis added:

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 192,000 in March. Job growth averaged 183,000 per month over the prior 12 months. In March, employment grew in professional and business services, in health care, and in mining and logging.

Professional and business services added 57,000 jobs in March, in line with its average monthly gain of 56,000 over the prior 12 months. […]

In March, health care added 19,000 jobs. […]

Employment in mining and logging rose in March (+7,000), with the bulk of the increase occurring in support activities for mining (+5,000). […]

Employment continued to trend up in March in food services and drinking places (+30,000). Over the past year, food services and drinking places has added 323,000 jobs.

Construction employment continued to trend up in March (+19,000). Over the past year, construction employment has risen by 151,000.

Employment in government was unchanged in March. A decline of 9,000 jobs in federal government was mostly offset by an increase of 8,000 jobs in local government, excluding education. Over the past year, employment in federal government has fallen by 85,000.

Given the ongoing contraction of government employment at various levels, these private sector job gains look even a little stronger.

More info from the household survey:

In March, the number of unemployed persons was essentially unchanged at 10.5 million, and the unemployment rate held at 6.7 percent. Both measures have shown little movement since December 2013. Over the year, the number of unemployed persons and the unemployment rate were down by 1.2 million and 0.8 percentage point, respectively.

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There just wasn’t much change in the numbers in the household survey, although it’s worth noting that the labor force participation rate increased slightly over the month and was down very slightly over the years — from 63.3 percent in March 2013 to 63.2 percent in March 2014.

The BLS is predicting that demographic changes, primarily the aging of the baby boomer generation, will continue to put downward pressure on the labor force participation rate. A new study projects that the rate will fall to 61.6 percent by 2022. This is not a crisis, and is inevitable.

The BLS actually keeps six categories of employment. We generally report and read about the U-3 numbers, but the most inclusive definition is U-6: “Total unemployed, plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force.”

Seasonally adjusted U-6 unemployment is at 12.7 percent and has changed little in 2014. It is down from 13.8 percent in March 2013.

If you’re looking for a broader perspective on these trends, I highly recommend Calculated Risk’s recent discussion of how we have recovered from the recession. We should have expected — and many of us did expect — weak job growth after the financial crisis. So it’s worth asking why the U.S. fared better than other nations that had severe financial crises.

Calculated Risk also has a recent discussion about private and public sector job under Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush II, and Obama. Presidents are victims of the business cycle, but they are also the victims of bad policies that can inhibit job creation. Still, it’s interesting to note what has actually happened in both the public and private sector under these various leaders:



As CR notes, it would be interesting to look at these numbers in terms of percentage growth.