Did job growth slow in March, or continue on its strong, steady path?
The Labor Department announced earlier today that the U.S. economy added 126,000 jobs in March, which not only ends a 12-month streak of 200,000-plus jobs added, but also represents the slowest pace of job growth in 15 months.
Of course, the specifics of the report extend beyond that those gloomy numbers, and we wanted to spotlight five of the most important details:
1. Unemployment Rate Blues – Though hiring slowed in March, the unemployment rate held steady at 5.5 percent, and more encouragingly, the underemployment rate (the share of workers in part-time work who want full-time work) ticked down to 10.9 percent, its lowest level since August 2008. We’ve written before about the numerous problems with our unemployment measurements, but we can at least say that the unemployment situation did not worsen in March.
2. The Nature of Jobs – It’s a bit of a divine comedy, looking at the nature of the current job market. Though the U.S. is still down 750,000 full-time jobs from Dec. 2007, nearly all the jobs added during the recovery have been full-time positions, so we’re at least in the process of replacing what was lost.
3. Good News/Lukewarm News For Housing – We’ll start with the good news: the young adult employment rate held steady at 76.8 percent; that’s still below the historical rate of 78-79 percent, but as with our last point, it’s ultimately a good thing that Millennials are not losing jobs (and housing’s future is very much dependent on Millennials). The lukewarm news was that construction employment was down 1,000 jobs, or 0.02 percent; job losses are never a good thing, but a 0.02 percent decline hardly suggests the sky is falling.
4. Jobless Duration Improving – In perhaps the most encouraging stat of all, the share of unemployed who have been out of work for more than six months dropped below 30 percent; the long-term unemployment share hasn’t been that low since June 2009, and there hasn’t been such a drop since August 2014.
5. Wages, Wages, Wages – Of course, we couldn’t let an examination of the latest jobs report go by without mentioning wages, which, sadly, still show no signs of improvement. Though the average hourly earnings ticked up from February to March, the average weekly earnings posted its smallest annual gain since June 2014, rising just 2.1 percent; furthermore, if we look at wages over a longer term, wage growth has progressed at just 2 percent the last four years. That’s barely in pace with the rate of inflation, and as we detailed last week, hardly the kind of economic growth that will encourage homeownership.