March jobs report falls way short of expectations; manufacturing rises as unemployment falls to decade-long low

According to data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Friday, 98,000 new jobs were created in March, lower than the estimated 180,000 after February’s 295,000.

Despite the slowdown from data compiled over the previous three months, economists remained optimistic.

“Even if payrolls are slowing down, I’m not sure that means the labor market is weakening.  To the extent that it is slowing down or going to slow down, it’s probably more a function of tight supply than weakening demand,” said Stephen Stanley, an economist at a New York-based brokerage firm. 

Jobs in the professional and business services led increases and mining jobs rose, but employment in the retail sector declined.

Economists say retail jobs suffered due to post-holiday layoffs, but the business and professional stratum added 56,000 new jobs and mining added 11,000.

Similarly, 14,000 jobs were added in healthcare and the financial services and construction sectors each added 6,000 new employment opportunities.

Employment numbers in other major industries — leisure and hospitality, warehousing, wholesale trade or transportation — remained largely stable, with little or no change.  BLS did note there was no significant drop in these sectors.

Despite the lower-than-expected number of jobs created, experts were buoyed by unemployment falling to 4.5 percent, the lowest in nearly 10 years, and the unexpected addition of 11,000 jobs in manufacturing, bringing jobs in that sector to levels not seen since January 2009.

The rise in manufacturing jobs in March is the fourth consecutive month in which manufacturing sector jobs outpaced government jobs.

While unemployment rests at 4.5 percent, data suggests 153 million Americans had jobs in March, up 472,000 from 326,000 added in February, marking the second-straight month in which employed persons rose.  Overall labor participation remained consistent at 63 percent, nearly identical to February.

BLS also made revisions to January and February jobs reports with January revised down to 216,000 from 238,000 and February down from 298,000 to 219,000.

The three-month average for job creation rests at 178,000.


[Bloomberg] [] [Photo courtesy Drew McNew/Getty Images via MarketWatch]