March Jobs Report: Unemployment Rate Falls But Job Growth Slows Down

April 6, 2012

Careers section of newspaperThe good news in the March jobs report, just released by the U.S. Department of Labor, is its showing of a one-tenth percent drop in the nationwide unemployment rate -- to 8.2 percent -- the lowest in three years, according to The Wall Street Journal.

However, the good news might stop there, and it's even thought that this drop in the unemployment rate could be less than positive. As the WSJ explained, the drop looks to be the result of more people giving up on their quest of finding a job than actually a result of more people getting hired. Additionally, while the jobs report shows that 120,000 new jobs were added last month, that number fell far short of analyst predictions of 200,000 more jobs, reported The New York Times. The 120,000 number is also far from the 240,000 new jobs added in February.

According to CBS MoneyWatch, previous gains may have just been seasonal as more than 850,000 new jobs were added to the U.S. economy over the winter and holiday months. This averaged 246,000 new jobs per month for the past three months -- a far cry from where last month's job numbers came in. In fact, CNN Money described the addition of last month's 120,000 jobs as "just about enough" to help the economy keep pace with the population growth. Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, described the addition as akin to "treading water," when it comes to the economy.

"It's discouraging that job growth was half of what it had been the previous month," Owens told CNN Money.

The drop in unemployment is explained by some 164,000 workers, mainly thought to be white women, walking away from the job market. However, the WSJ reported that the drop wasn't entirely unexpected. For example, Federal Reserve officials have reportedly expressed doubts for months about the continuation of the robust addition of jobs as gained during the seasonal months.

The point is that new jobs were added, however, and they fell in diverse fields. Some 37,000 new jobs were created in manufacturing; 36,900 in restaurants and bars; 31,000 jobs in the professional field; and 26,000 in health care. The private sector added 121,000 jobs while the government cut about 1,000, according to CNN Money. Additionally, the retail sector cut 34,000 jobs. The result is that an estimated 12.7 million residents remain unemployed, and that more than 42 percent have been out of work for six months or longer.

"(This) is a reminder that the U.S. recovery is not suddenly going to transform into a spectacular success, particularly not at a time when the rest of world economy is stumbling," said Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economics of Capital Economics, in a note that was quoted by CNN Money.

Alan Krueger, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, was a bit more optimistic, however.

"These is more work to be done, but today's employment report provides further evidence that the economy is continuing to recover from the worst economic downtown since the Great Depression," Krueger said in a statement that was quoted by CNN Money.


Compiled by Maggie O'Neill

Sources:

"Job Growth Loses Steam," online.wsj.com, April 6, 2012, Josh Mitchell and Eric Morath

"Jobs Report Tempers Hopes of Accelerating U.S. Recovery," nytimes.com, April 6, 2012, Motoko Rich

"March Jobs Report Disappoints," cbsnews.com, April 6, 2012, Jill Schelsinger

"March Jobs Report: Hiring Slows, Unemployment Falls," money.cnn.com, April 6, 2012, Annalyn Censky

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