Employment Situation (March 2014) Published by Bruce Steinberg

 Quick recap

The unemployment rate was unchanged at 6.7 percent in March; it was 7.5 percent one year ago. Although there were nearly 500,000 more employed persons, the labor force expanded by essentially the same number and with little movement in the number of unemployed persons, the unemployment rate was static. More detail about the employment status in the Household Survey section at the bottom of this column.

Total nonfarm job growth was 192,000 but — although within the trend of the past few months — many analysts and labor market observers were expecting much more as they thought the severe weather of January and February had suppressed hiring earlier in the year.  Revised data for January is showing a 144,000 job increase and February was up 197,000.

We suspect you’ll be hearing a lot of interesting interpretations of the jobs number ranging from ‘March job growth was actually weak since it should have been much higher because of the bad weather at the beginning of the year’ to ‘the severe weather apparently did not change employers’ hiring plans.’ We wonder if any expert will fess up and say, ‘Whoops, we got it wrong’ or ‘We really had no idea — we were only guessing.’

Jobs Report

Total private-sectors jobs grew by 192,000, which was slightly better than the 188,000 increase of February and good growth compared to the 166,000 rise in January.

The number of jobs in the private Goods-producing sector grew by 25,000 in March, but growth seems to be heading in the wrong direction. January experienced a 65,000 job increase and February grew by 40,000.

  • The Construction sector was essentially flat with      19,000 new jobs in March after adding essentially the same amount (up      18,000) in February, but well below the pace of January when it added      51,000.
  • Manufacturers, after adding 19,000 in February that was      an improvement from the 8,000 is grew by in January, declined by 1,000 in      March; March’s performance can be attributed to the 9,000 job decline in      nondurable goods as durable goods added 8,000.
  • Mining and logging added 7,000 jobs last month mainly      courtesy of its Support activities for mining sub-sector.

The private Service-providing sector continued to recover from relatively weak growth in January (up 101,000) with growth of 148,000 in February with an increase of 167,000 in March.

  • The Retail trade sector shifted gears and instead of      cutting its inventory of jobs, which it did in January (down 21,300) and      February (down 1,900), added 21,300 jobs in March.
  • The pace at the Wholesale trade continued to slow with      only a gain of only 7,100 in March after adding 18,300 jobs on January and      growth of 14,500 in February.
  • The Transportation and warehousing sector apparently      started to recover form its 5,400 decline of February with a gain of 7,900      in March.
  • Financial activities continued to flounder by not      showing any strong trend in one direction or the other. March’s gain of      1,000 jobs was preceded was February’s growth of 9,000 and January loss of      1,000.
  • The Professional and business services sector’s growth      was disappointing with growth of only 57,000 in March, which — although      better than January’s gain of only 49,000 — was less than February      increase of 81,000.  Computer systems design and related services      added 6,100 jobs in March that was clearly stronger than the 4,000 it      added in February.  Management and technical consulting services,      which is a smaller sector, grew by 3,500 in March that was clear not as      strong as the 5,800 it added in February. And Accounting and bookkeeping      services may have miscalculated after adding 17,000 in February because      they deleted 100 (yes, one hundred) jobs in March.
  • The Education and health services sector added a total      of 34,000 jobs in March; the sector’s highly seasonal Educational services      sub-sector added 6,700. Growth in the Health care and social assistance      portion was 27,000 with Home health care services adding 8,500 in March      after declining by almost 2,000 in February.
  • New hiring in Leisure and hospitality sector was      remarkably consistent with 29,000 more jobs in February and the same      amount in March and almost that amount (up 25,000) in January.

The total number of Government jobs were unchanged. The federal government shrank by 9,000; State government was down by 2,000; but Local government was up by 11,000.

Temporary Help Services Roundup

In March, Temporary help services again had some very strong growth with an increase of 28,500 to a record 2,837,500 (was up a similar amount — 27,600 — in February). This was growth of 1.0 percent from February and a 9.6 percent increase from March 2013. This was the highest year-on-year growth since the summer of 2012.

And Temporary help service’s market share — that is its portion of all jobs — blew past all previous records to 2.06 percent in March, which was almost 0.02 percentage points above last month’s reading.

Bruce Steinberg, March 2014

Household Survey

The 6.7 percent unemployment rate was unchanged in March; in February it crept up from January’s 6.6 percent.

That 6.7 percent unemployment rate was the result of a labor force that expanded by 503,000, but the number of employed persons increase by almost the same number (up 476,000) as the number of unemployed grew by only 27,000. The number not in the labor force declined by 331,000.

The employment-to-population ratio was up to 58.9 percent in March (was 58.8 in February and 58.5 a year earlier) as the labor force participation rate also rose to 63.2 percent in March (was 63.0 in February but 63.3 in March 2013). The number of discouraged workers was down to 698,000 in March 2014 from 803,000 a year earlier.