Captain Rick: U.S. Hiring plummeted in March to 88,000, its lowest level since last June. Unemployment ticked down 0.1% to 7.6% for the wrong reason…because 500,000 people dropped out of the labor market. This is my personal report that skips all of the hype and gets right to the facts. It’s a report you can believe.
Hiring plummets to 88,000
March hiring plummeted to 1/3 that of February and 1/2 of the number of a year ago.
Private Sector: 95,000 jobs added, mostly in professional and business services and healthcare. Growth was dragged down by the retail sector, which lost 24,000 jobs. The drop in retail was particularly disappointing, considering that the sector had averaged an increase of 32,000 jobs a month for the past six months. Construction jobs added 18,000 jobs in March.
Public Sector: 7,000 jobs lost. The U.S. Postal Service shed 12,000 positions, but were offset by other gains. This sector is continuing to be an overall strain on job creation. While the impact of the forced federal budget cuts, which began March 1, was a concern, it doesn’t appear to have directly affected the March payroll figures much. The federal government, excluding the U.S. Postal Service, shed only 2,200 positions.
The red line in the chart above represents the 150,000 jobs that need to be created each month to keep up with population growth. The average over the past 12 months is 159,000 jobs added per month…only 9,000 positive gain over the number needed to keep up with population growth. Overall, the U.S. economy lost 8.8 million jobs during the Great Recession, and is still down about 3.2 million jobs from the labor market’s height in January 2008. At the current pace of a positive gain of 9000 jobs per month, 30 years would be required to restore the lost jobs.
In the Labor Department’s survey, 206,000 fewer people said they had a job than in the previous month, even though a separate survey of employers in the March jobs report showed 88,000 jobs were added.
In addition, 290,000 fewer people were counted as unemployed because they were not actively looking for work. That drop in those seeking jobs was the reason the unemployment rate fell to 7.6%, the lowest since December 2008.
Unemployment Rate drops to 7.6%
The March reading was a .1 decline, but it is not good news because nearly 500,000 people dropped out of the labor market. 11.7 million people are receiving unemployment benefits.
Economists believe the rate will fall to 6.7% by the end of 2014. That would put it close to the 6.5% level that the Federal Reserve has said it wants to see before considering raising interest rates. Some of the anticipated drop will result from baby boomers retiring. If unemployed people continue giving up on finding a job at the rate experienced during March, the unemployment rate could drop even faster. Unfortunately the young looking for their first job are not figured into the unemployment rate because they do not yet qualify for unemployment compensation yet. All of this makes the unemployment figure really ambiguous…almost meaningless.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office shows there are 3.9 million workers who should be in the labor force but are not because of the weakness in the job market. Counting them as unemployed would take the unemployment rate up to 9.8%.
Underemployment Rate drops to 13.8%
The underemployment rate, a more meaningful term, includes persons marginally attached to the labor force such as part time workers seeking full time employment and “over qualified” workers working in jobs below their caliber.
U.S Labor Force Participation Rate fell to 63.3%
The March reading is the lowest level since May 1979 when women were less likely to be working. For men age 25 and older, March was the lowest participation on record. The participation rate for those age 16 to 24 was near a 50-year low. The participation rate of “prime-age” workers, age 25 to 54, also fell to match the lowest reading since 1984.
Generally, this consists of everyone of working age (around 16), who are participating workers, that is people actively employed (either part-time or full-time) or people actively seeking employment. In the U.S., not maximum age is considered.
People not counted include people who are not employed and not seeking employment including students, retired people, stay-at-home parents, people who do not report income (tax evaders) and people in prisons or similar institutions.
Discouraged workers who want to work, but cannot find work and have thus stopped looking for work for at least a month are not included in the labor force in the United States.
Some of the downward trend in the participation rate in recent years is due to more baby boomers reaching retirement age, along with the longer life span of those who are retired. The greater the percentage of the population that is retired, the lower the participation rate.
The difficulty for younger workers finding jobs is also a factor, as more young adults unable to find work return to school to try to improve their prospects.
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