Jobs: Largest Gain in Years, Still Not Muchby Tim Manni
Nonfarm payrolls added 162,000 jobs in March, the largest “seasonally-adjusted” monthly increase in about three years. While the unemployment rate held steady at 9.7%, both the January and February numbers were revised upward.
The composition of gains is particularly illuminating and indicative of a strengthening labor market. Census hiring contributed much less than expected: Federal government payrolls increased by 48,000. Meanwhile, goods-producing industries added 41,000, with manufacturing adding to payrolls for a third consecutive month and construction gaining for the first time since mid-2007. Some of this may have been a reversal of February’s weather-related losses. Service gains were driven by temp hiring—the sixth consecutive month of growth—as well as consumer industries (leisure and retail).
Over the last few months we’ve been encouraging readers to look at the overall picture when they assess the monthly job numbers. If March follows the 2010 trend — each month’s numbers being revised upward — we just may see the 162,000 jobs added in March grow even higher. However, from October 2009 until March 2010, each month’s numbers have alternated between losses and gains.
Some of you may be wondering how 162,000 jobs can be added without that having any positive effect on the unemployment rate. Here’s one reason why: 162,000 jobs added compared to the millions of jobs we’ve lost since the downturn began, is merely a blip in the grand scheme of things. “We need to consistently add in excess of 250,000 — 300,000 jobs each month before the unemployment rate will show any true signs of improvement,” said HSH VP Keith Gumbinger.
Readers: How’s the job market treating you? Leave us a comment to let us know how you’re making out on the employment front.