Friday, April 4, 2008

March Unemployment Report

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released the latest unemployment numbers this morning. In March, the unemployment rate increased from 4.8% to 5.1%. According to the household survey, the number of persons employed fell by 24,000, but the number of unemployed rose increased by 434,000. That is because there was an increase in the labor force; this is the opposite of what happened last month, when the unemployment rate actually fell because people were leaving the labor force (to be counted in the labor force you must either be working or looking for work). So, if you like to believe the glass is half-full, you can take some comfort in the increase in the labor force participation rate, from 65.88% to 66.00%. The half-empty view would note that - while the NBER will take its time in declaring a business cycle turning point - the rise in unemployment over the past several months looks similar to the pattern at the beginning of previous recessions (shaded):The NY Times led with the decline of 80,000 in nonfarm payroll employment from the establishment (business) survey (the BLS surveys both businesses and households; the household survey data is used to calculate the unemployment rate).

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