No Big Surprises in March Jobs Report

JOB GROWTH: Employment grew by 215,000 in March, slightly ahead of projections.

TOP INDUSTRIES: Employment was up in retail trade, construction and healthcare. Job losses hit both manufacturing and mining. For the third month in a row, there was little change in professional and business services.

UNEMPLOYMENT: The unemployment rate climbed slightly from 4.9 percent in February to 5.0 percent in March, but it has remained fairly steady for eight months now. The reason for the slightly higher rate is not necessarily that more people are out of work but that more people have joined or rejoined the labor force, which now represents 63.0 percent of the U.S. population. This includes 6.1 million part-time workers, many of whom would prefer full-time positions.

WAGES: Pay was up in March, but not by much. Average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased by 7 cents to $25.43, a 2.3 percent increase from a year earlier. With inflation low, this translates to slightly greater buying power for those who saw an increase in pay.

TEMPORARY JOB TRENDS: Temporary staffing jobs increased slightly in March. This positive movement was no match, however, for the losses of the past two months, especially given the downward restatement of January losses that essentially doubled the original estimate.

SO WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN? The latest numbers indicate a continuation of a
“steady-as-you-go” improvement in the economy. There have been virtually no fireworks moments in the past year, and that is viewed by many as a good thing. The ups go steadily, if anemically, up, and changes in the lows are small enough dips to hold heart palpitations at bay. If the economy continues along this track, we have little to be excited about, either positively or negatively, and maybe that is a good thing.