Job Growth Slows in March, Underscores Need to Boost Recovery Efforts
By: National Employment Law Project
Washington, DC – The economy added 120,000 jobs in March, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ monthly jobs report released today. In contrast to the last few months, job growth came in lower than expected—an unwelcome change of pace that raises concern about how robust the recovery is for working families. Despite worse-than-expected jobs growth, the unemployment rate fell slightly to 8.2 percent. With 12.7 million workers still unemployed – and certain groups of workers struggling disproportionately with long-term unemployment – further robust growth is needed to alleviate the hardship of unemployment and close the jobs deficit, which remains at nearly 10 million jobs.
“While the slight decline in the unemployment rate and downward trend in the number of workers filing for unemployment are welcome news, the slower than anticipated job growth for March is worrisome,” stated Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project. “We should not attach too much significance to one month’s numbers, especially in light of overall positive trends, but there’s no question that the persistence of a deep jobs deficit along with low labor force participation rates and the lopsided growth in low-wage jobs remain a cause for concern about how robust and sustainable the recovery will be.”
“We cannot build a strong economy that supports families today and provides opportunities for their children tomorrow on low wages and substantial unemployment and underemployment. Our goal should be a good jobs economy that provides work, opportunity and economic security for all. Ultimately, the best measure of success is the progress we are making toward that goal.”
March’s employment report by the numbers
Even though the economy continued to add jobs last month, March’s employment numbers represent a change from the relatively stronger growth experienced since the end of last year. Job growth averaged 246,000 jobs from December 2011 until February 2012 – significantly better than the 120,000 jobs the economy added in March. In order to address the jobs deficit, which stands at nearly 10 million jobs, more robust growth is needed to ensure true economic recovery for the labor force and to address the continued severity of unemployment.
- Public sector job losses. Loss in the public sector overall is starting to subside, with 1,000 jobs in total cut last month. However, local governments once again had heavier loss, with 3,000 jobs cut. Since the official end of the Great Recession in June 2009, the public sector has lost about 560,000 jobs.
- Employment & labor force participation. The portion of the overall population that is employed fell in March, to 58.5 percent, and the share of Americans in the labor force also declined. These are both signs that the labor market is not moving in the right direction.
- Long-term unemployment. 12.7 million workers remained unemployed in March. The duration of unemployment remains alarming: on average, unemployed workers were without work for just under 40 weeks, or over 9 months. Of the unemployed, 5.3 million (42.5 percent) are long-term unemployed, having been out of work for six months or longer.
- Underemployment. Underemployment continues to plague the labor force. In addition to the unemployed, 7.7 million are working part-time involuntarily, and another 2.4 million have searched for work in the past year and are currently available for work, but have given up their job search. Together, this means that 22.8 million are either unemployed or underemployed, resulting in a “real” unemployment rate of 14.5 percent.
- Signs of future hiring. Previous signs of a pick-up in future hiring were set back in March when hiring in temporary help services, typically a predictor of future hiring growth, fell by 7,500. Average hourly wages did, however, edge upward.
- Jobs deficit. Sustained, stronger job growth is needed in order to close the jobs deficit, which stands at about 10 million jobs as of March. This deficit represents the 5.2 million jobs lost since the start of Great Recession and not yet recovered, in addition to the 4.7 million jobs the economy should have added in order to account for potential growth in the labor force over this period.
- Initial Unemployment Insurance Claims: Initial claims fell to 357,000 for the week ending March 31, the lowest total since April 2008. Still, nearly 7 million unemployed workers are receiving unemployment insurance benefits, including nearly 3.3 million who have exhausted their state benefits and are receiving federal benefits.
The National Employment Law Project is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts research and advocates on issues affecting low-wage and unemployed workers. For more about NELP, visit www.nelp.org.