The US economy continued to add jobs in March, pushing down the unemployment rate to its lowest level in two years and providing signs of an improving economy.
Nonfarm payroll employment increased by 216,000 in March, and the unemployment rate was little changed at 8.8%, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Job gains occurred in professional and business services, health care, leisure and hospitality, and mining. Employment in manufacturing continued to trend up.
The number of unemployed persons (13.5m) and the unemployment rate (8.8%) changed little in March. The labor force also was little changed over the month. Since November 2010, the jobless rate has declined by 1.0 percentage point.
Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men (8.6%), adult women (7.7%), teenagers (24.5%), whites (7.9%), blacks (15.5%), and Hispanics (11.3%) showed little change in March. The jobless rate for Asians was 7.1%, not seasonally adjusted.
The number of job losers and persons who completed temporary jobs, at 8.2m, was little changed in March but has fallen by 1.3m since November 2010. The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was 6.1m in March; their share of the unemployed increased from 43.9 to 45.5% over the month.
In March, the civilian labor force participation rate held at 64.2%, and the employment population ratio, at 58.5%, changed little.
The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) was little changed in March, at 8.4m. These individuals were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job.
In March, 2.4m persons were marginally attached to the labor force, up slightly from a year earlier. (These data are not seasonally adjusted.) These individuals were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey.
Among the marginally attached, there were 921,000 discouraged workers in March, little changed from a year earlier. (These data are not seasonally adjusted.) Discouraged workers are persons not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them. The remaining 1.5m persons marginally attached to the labor force in March had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey for reasons such as school attendance or family responsibilities.
In March, employment in the service-providing sector continued to expand, led by a gain of 78,000 in professional and business services. Most of the gain occurred in temporary help services (+29,000) and in professional and technical services (+35,000).
Health care employment continued to increase in March (+37,000). Over the last 12 months, health care has added 283,000 jobs, or an average of 24,000 jobs per month.
Employment in leisure and hospitality rose by 37,000 over the month, with more than two-thirds of the increase in food services and drinking places (+27,000).
Manufacturing employment continued to trend up in March (+17,000). Job gains were concentrated in two durable goods industries - - fabricated metal products (+8,000) and machinery (+5,000). Employment in durable goods manufacturing has risen by 243,000 since its most recent low in December 2009.
In March, employment in mining increased by 14,000, with much of the gain occurring in support activities for mining (+9,000).
Employment in local government continued to trend down over the month. Local government has lost 416,000 jobs since an employment peak in September 2008.
The average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls was unchanged at 34.3 hours in March. The manufacturing workweek for all employees edged down by 0.1 hour to 40.5 hours, while factory overtime was unchanged at 3.3 hours. The average workweek for production and nonsupervisory employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased by 0.1 hour to 33.6 hours.
In March, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls were unchanged at $22.87. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by 1.7%. Average hourly earnings of private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees edged down by 2 cents over the month to $19.30.
The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for January was revised from +63,000 to +68,000, and the change for February was revised from +192,000 to +194,000.
Professor Peter Morici of
the University of Maryland commented: "These gains are in sharp contrast to weaker gains the previous
13 months, and largely resulted from stronger, potentially self-sustaining
private sector jobs growth.
US employment recorded a second straight month of solid gains in March, with CNBC's John Harwood:
Hilda Solis, Labor Secretary, discusses the stronger-than-expected March jobs report:
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