The Employment Situation in March
There is more work to be done, but today’s employment report provides further evidence that the economy is continuing to recover from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. It is critical that we continue to make smart investments that strengthen our economy and lay a foundation for long-term middle class job growth so we can continue to dig our way out of the deep hole that was caused by the severe recession that began at the end of 2007.
Employer payrolls increased by 121,000 jobs in March, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ establishment survey. The unemployment rate ticked down to 8.2% in March, according to the household survey. However, employment was virtually unchanged in the household survey.
Both surveys indicate the continuing challenges facing construction workers, as a result of the collapse in homebuilding following the bursting of the housing bubble. The unemployment rate for construction workers stands at 17.2%, more than double the national average. Because of weak private sector demand for construction investment and the nation’s continuing need for improved infrastructure, including maintenance of existing highways, bridges, and ports, the President’s Budget proposal to increase and modernize the nation’s infrastructure is well targeted to support the economy today and in the future.
Despite adverse shocks that have created headwinds for economic growth, including weak construction investment, the economy has added private sector jobs for 25 straight months, for a total of 4.1 million jobs over that period.
Manufacturing continues to be a bright spot and added 37,000 jobs in March. After losing millions of good manufacturing jobs in the years before and during the recession, the economy has added 466,000 manufacturing jobs in the past 25 months—the strongest growth for any 25 month period since September 1995. To continue the revival in manufacturing jobs and output, the President has proposed tax incentives for manufacturers, enhanced training for the workforce, and measures to create manufacturing hubs.
Other sectors with net job increases included leisure and hospitality (+39,000), professional and business services (+31,000), and financial activities (+15,000). Retail trade lost 33,800 jobs, construction lost 7,000 jobs, and government lost 1,000 jobs. State and local government job losses have moderated in recent months. Almost three-quarters of the slower job growth in March relative to February was due to slower growth in temporary help services and health care and day care services.
As the Administration stresses every month, the monthly employment and unemployment figures can be volatile, and employment estimates can be subject to substantial revision. Therefore, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report, and it is helpful to consider each report in the context of other data that are becoming available.