Jobs Report: 215,000 Jobs Added In March, Unemployment Rate Higher At 5%
New data out Friday from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows employers in the United States adding 215,000 jobs last month. The BLS report also shows the unemployment rate at 5%, up from 4.9% in both January and February. Economists had been anticipating 203,000 jobs would be added in March and for the unemployment rate to remain steady.
Payroll counts fromJanuary and February were little changed. The gain for February, first recorded at a surprisingly strong 242,000, was revised higher to plus 245,000. Meanwhile the January count was revised to plus 168,000 jobs down from the most recent reading of 172,000. Net total job gains in January and February were therefore 1,000 lower than what BLS previously reported. Monthly job gains over the past three months have averaged 209,000.
Though at first blush, the bump in the unemployment rate may appear negative, the increase is due to more people entering the looking for work. In other words, the rate increased for what most economists consider the “right reasons.” The labor force gew from 158,890,000 in February to 159,286,000 in March. With job openings at a high, according to Andrew Chamberlain chief economist at job site Glassdoor, workers are coming in from the margins. “In my view we are still at full employment,” said Chamberlain in an interview Friday.
The labor force participation rate was 63%, up from 62.9% in February and 62.7% in Janauary. Since September the measure has increased by 0.6%, as has the employment-population ratio, which now stands at 59.9%. Thee U-6 rate, which measures under-employment, came in at 9.8% in March, up from 9.7% February and from 11% a year ago.
While the data suggests many of the workers entering the workforce found employment, it is clear some did not. At the end of March 8 million Americans were unemployed, up from 7.8 million in February. This, says Quincy Krosby, Prudential Financial market strategist, is holding down pressure on wages.
Average hourly earnings increased by 7 cents in March to $25.43. The bump comes after a 2 cent decline in February. In the past year, average hourly earnings have gained 2.3%. Having more people to chose from, Krosby explained, makes it so employers don’t have to pay much more. “It is a strong labor market,” she says. “Is it overheating? Certainly not.”
Stocks opened in the red Friday, continuing a trend lower seen in pre-release, pre-market trading due to weak days for foreign markets and questions about the price of oil. The report is unlikely to change the course of Federal Reserve policy. Friday morning, futures markets placed the probability of and April rate hike a 6% and a June hike at 31%,