U.S. job market remains flat, economy adds 215,000 new jobs

by Wesley Brown ([email protected]) 135 views 

The broader U.S. economy added 215,000 new jobs in March as the jobless rate held steady at 5%, down one percentage point from a month ago and little unchanged for past several months, according to employment data released Friday (April 1) by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

For the month, the flat unemployment rate and the number of unemployed at persons now at 8 million have shown little movement since August 2015, Labor Department officials said. Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men (4.5%), adult women (4.6%), teenagers (15.9%), Whites (4.3%), Blacks (9.0%), Asians (4.0%), and Hispanics (5.6%) showed little or no change in March.

By contrast, Arkansas’ jobless rate fell to an all-time low of 4.2% in February, well below the nation’s unemployment rate and well ahead of year-ago levels when 5.5% of the state’s labor pool was unemployed. The state Department of Workforce Services will release the March job report for Arkansas on April 15.

Despite progress since the Great Recession, the U.S. Business Roundtable continues to believe the U.S. economy is performing below expectations and lacks momentum. In its 2016 agenda, the association of CEOs of leading U.S. companies said it will focus on policies that lead to job creation and economic growth – national priorities that are inextricably linked.

“Unemployment is down, but the workforce participation rate is at a 35-year low,” the CEO group said recently, touting its yearly growth plan. “The United States needs government policies that help, not hinder, companies to create more, better-paying jobs.”

Nationwide, total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 215,000 in March with employment gains occurred in retail trade, construction, and health care, while job losses occurred in manufacturing and mining.

Retail trade added 48,000 jobs in March as employment gains occurred in general merchandise stores (+12,000), health and personal care stores (+10,000), building material and garden supply stores (+10,000), and automobile dealers (+5,000). Over the past 12 months, retail trade has added 378,000 jobs.

Construction employment rose by 37,000 in March. Job gains occurred among residential specialty trade contractors (+12,000) and in heavy and civil engineering construction (+11,000). Over the year, construction has added 301,000 jobs.

Employment in health care increased by 37,000 over the month, about in line with the average monthly gain over the prior 12 months. In March, employment rose in ambulatory health care services (+27,000) and hospitals (+10,000). Over the year, health care employment has increased by a strong 503,000. Over the month, employment continued to trend up in food services and drinking places (+25,000) and in financial activities (+15,000).

In March, employment in professional and business services changed little for the third month in a row. In 2015, the industry added an average of 52,000 jobs per month.
Meanwhile, employment in manufacturing declined by 29,000 in March. Most of the job losses occurred in durable goods industries (-24,000), including machinery (-7,000), primary metals (-3,000), and semiconductors and electronic components (-3,000).

Mining employment, which includes the oil and gas sector, continued to decline in March (-12,000) with losses concentrated in support activities for mining (-10,000). Since reaching a peak in September 2014, employment in mining has decreased by 185,000.

Employment in other major industries, including wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, information, and government, were mostly unchanged over the month. The average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased by 7 cents to $25.43, following a 2-cent decline in February. Over the year, average hourly earnings have risen by 2.3%.