Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
Forecasts projected about 200,000 new jobs in March, the new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics fell short of expectations. Steve Benen writes at The Maddow Blog - Job totals disappoint, unemployment rate dips:
The U.S. economy added 120,000 jobs last month, while the overall unemployment rate dipped slightly to 8.2%. For the first time in a very long while, public-sector layoffs were less of a drag on the overall totals: the private sector added 121,000 jobs in March, while government lost only 1,000.
By any measure, today's disappointing totals are a real setback. While it's never wise to overreact to one report, March's job totals were the weakest since October, and reverse a three-month trend in which over 200,000 jobs were being created each month. In terms of revisions, January's totals were revised down a little, while February's were revised up a little.
While 120,000 new jobs would have been considered great in, say, late 2009, it's not even close to good enough now. This is a figure that barely keeps up with population growth, and is roughly half of what the economy should be producing as part of a larger recovery. Ideally, policymakers would see data like this and take steps to boost job creation, but given Republican efforts in Congress, that's no longer an option.
The overall economy has now added over 1.9 million jobs over the last year, and nearly 3.5 million jobs over the last three years. For America's private sector, it's 2.2 million over the last year, and 4 million over the last three years.
Here's another chart, this one showing monthly job losses/gains in just the private sector since the start of the Great Recession.
Steve Benen continues, The Maddow Blog - The search for silver linings:
But to borrow a line from Douglas Adams, don't panic. Brad Plumer notes some context that's worth keeping in mind.
One big question, however, is whether the BLS's estimates for March are actually correct. As Ryan Avent points out, because there's such a huge margin of error in these reports, there's a 90 percent chance that the U.S. economy added somewhere between 20,000 and 220,000 jobs last month. In recent times, the jobs figures have gone up significantly every time they get revised in later months. [...]
Meanwhile, there's been a lot of talk lately about whether the freakishly warm winter artificially boosted the economy in January and February by helping the construction industry get an early start. (More on this below)
In other words, we paid in March for the good news in January and February.
What's more, while this was clearly a disappointing report, the news wasn't all bad. The U-6 rate dropped to its lowest level in years; average hourly pay went up; and public-sector layoffs are no longer dragging down the larger job market.
There's also this oddity: the overall unemployment rate is now at its lowest level of the Obama presidency (if we count his presidency as starting in February 2009 -- his first full month in office).
Ed Kilgore writes at the Political Animal blog that economists think that our unseasonably warm weather this winter (what winter?) was a factor in the job numbers. Fair- and Foul- Weather Friends:
As analysis of the March Jobs Report trickles out, one clear point of consensus seems to be that the very factors that make it misleadingly disappointing also make the boffo February report retroactively less impressive than it seemed at the time. Here’s Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research:
The slower job growth shown in the establishment survey in March likely reflected the fact that good weather pulled forward a lot of hiring so that workers who might typically have been hired in March instead found jobs in January and February. This is most obviously the case in construction, which showed a loss of 7,000 jobs after showing an average gain of 13,000 in the prior three months. Weather may also explain the decline of 14,200 jobs in employment services (the broader temp category) after the sector added an average of 45,600 jobs the prior three months.
Ezra Klein also mentions the fair-weather hypothesis as persuasive, and goes on to say:
[I]f anyone is eager for encouraging signs, it’s worth pointing out that the very broadest measure of unemployment actually improved this month. This is the U-6 metric, which tallies up all unemployed persons, plus people marginally attached to the labor force, plus people employed part-time for economic reasons. Jim Pethokoukis likes to call this “perhaps the truest measure of the labor market’s health.” And U-6 dropped from 14.9 percent in February to 14.5 percent in March. Anyone trying to dig around for optimistic signs should start there.
Still, it’s a weak report all around. And we’ll know in a few months if March was actually as tepid as everyone thinks. In theory, the real significance of this report should be whether it convinces Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve that a little more monetary stimulus is needed.
It could just be the old idiom that March comes in like a lion, and goes out like a lamb.