By Thomas Cooley, Ben Griffy and Peter Rupert
The BLS announcement of a 98,000 increase in payroll employment for March was far below expectations. Moreover, both the January and February employment growth numbers were revised down, -22,000 and -16,000, respectively. Many forecasters estimated job growth between 180,000 to 200,000, especially given the 236,000 increase from the ADP report. The household employment numbers shot up 472,000.
There was a decline in the number of unemployed persons, down 326,00. while labor force participation held steady at 63% and the employment to population ratio increased slightly from 60.0 to 60.1. Combined, these changes led to the headline unemployment rate ticking down to 4.5%
Average hourly pay rose from $26.09 to $26.14 while weekly average hours of work remained at 34.3 for the second consecutive month.
Other indicators of economic health, like the composition of jobs, suggested improving conditions: part-time for economic reasons fell by 151,000, while the number of marginally attached workers fell by nearly 150,000. In combination, it seems that conditions have improved for those without strong ties to the labor market. The composition of the unemployed continued to show signs of improvement.
Where The Jobs Are
The employment gains were largely in the service producing sector, up 61,000 despite a 29,700 decline in retail trade. Professional and business services was the largest gainer in the services sector, up 56,000. Construction jobs increased by 9,000.