The Labor Department reported that the U.S. unemployment rate
fell to 8.2 percent in March and total employment rose by 120,000
positions. ADP had projected earlier in the week that 209,000
positions were created in the private sector and a survey of
economists by Bloomberg called for a gain of 205,000 positions.
Regardless, it was the seventh straight month of job growth of over
100,000 jobs, the approximate level required to outpace population
Growth was concentrated in manufacturing (+37,000), food and
beverage establishments (+37,000), and healthcare (+26,000).
General merchandise retailers, though, saw a substantial dip
(-34,000) for the second month in a row. This comes despite
retailers like Target and Gap reporting strong sales during the
first quarter. Temporary help services also posted a loss of 7,500
jobs after adding nearly 55,000 in February.
But while temporary work has fallen, temporary workers are not
the only short-term source of additional labor. The number of
people working part-time for economic reasons fell by more than
400,000 in March and has fallen by nearly 1.6 million since
September. Since total employment has been rising during this time,
those 1.6 million positions have been replaced by full-time
Employment growth seems to continue to focus on those with
Bachelor’s degrees and higher with that segment’s unemployment rate
remaining at 4.2 percent for the last three months. Also, the
management, business and related occupations unemployment rate has
fallen from 4.3 to 4.2 percent over the last year. Also promising
is that the average length of unemployment is continuing to fall,
with the mean duration of unemployment falling to 39.4 weeks and
the median to 19.9 weeks.
March’s figures are likely to be seen as a disappointment, but
the shortfall in the numbers was localized. Previous disappointing
months have shown slowdowns across a variety of sectors, while
March’s numbers showed meaningful reversals in only two.
Furthermore, this report comes alongside a variety of improving
metrics, retail sales earnings for one. Also, the four-week average
unemployment claims rate fell on Thursday to its lowest point since
2008. It will take a few more data points, though, to determine if
today’s report was a natural fluctuation, or a change of