The Labor Department’s report did not show a breaking of the trend now in place since September of 2010, it did not show a number that comes close to the lowest rate of position creation during the period, and, if anything, it is more indicative of certain repetitive seasonal patterns. A game-changer, it is not. A paradigm-shifter, it is also not.
Also worth noting are the following counter-arguments and items of interest in the US jobs scene, as tendered by Marketwatch’s Rex Nutting in his latest “First Take” on the topic:
- The weather: Payrolls in December, January and February were boosted by unseasonably warm weather across much of the country. Fewer layoffs in January mean fewer people rehired in March.
- Most industries are hiring. Of 266 different industries, 60% were adding jobs in March. There were large losses in just a few industries: General merchandise store jobs fell by 32,000, building construction jobs fell 11,000, and temp-help jobs dropped by 7,000.
- Government hiring. After losing 265,000 jobs in 2011, layoffs in the public sector have slowed. In March, government employment fell by just 1,000 after a 7,000 gain in February.
- The trends are still positive. Over the past three months, payrolls are up an average of 212,000. Despite a drop in March, employment growth as measured by the separate household survey is even stronger, at 415,000 per month over the past three months. And despite the drop in March, the labor force has grown by an average of 273,000 per month over the past three months.
- The broadest measure of unemployment is down. The U6 unemployment rate, which includes all those who are actively looking for work as well as discouraged workers and those resigned to part-time jobs, fell to 14.5%, the lowest of Barack Obama’s presidency.
Mr. Nutting concluded that, while yes, the March L.D. report “stinks” and that it is, indeed, a ‘disappointment’ it should also be viewed in context. That context implies no triggering of QE3 but it also implies no departure from the near-zero interest rate policy for the time being. The Friday figures should actually have Chairman Bernanke smiling and reminding many that “I told you so” when it comes to the patterns of employment growth in the US. It would take a string of dismal April and May statistics of a similar type to alter the status-quo at the Fed. Meanwhile, be on the lookout for a string of Fed team member speeches to be delivered this week. On the list are Mr. Bernanke himself (today), Janet Yellen (April 11), and William Dudley (April12).