Friday, April 4, 2014

March Employment

The BLS released the employment figures for March today - a fairly good report overall, consistent with the trend that has predominated over the past several years of an economy that is recovering, but far too slowly.

Nonfarm payrolls - the jobs number from the survey of firms - rose by 192,000.  The unemployment rate remained at 6.7%, but in the survey of households which is used to calculate it, employment rose by 476,000.  The reason the unemployment rate didn't fall is that the labor force - i.e., the number of people working, or looking for work, increased by 503,000.  The decline in labor force participation has been one of the most troubling figures over the past several years, so it is good to see it rising again - in March, it rose 0.2 to 63.2%.
 The employment-population ratio for people 25-54 also rose by 0.2 percentage points, to 76.7%.
Looking at this statistic provides a rough way to control for the effects of the changing age distribution of the population.  While it has shown improvement recently, its still considerably below its all time high of 81.9% from April 2000.

Overall, while the report was somewhat encouraging, 10.5 million people remain unemployed.  The broader measure of un- and under-employment, 'U-6', which counts discouraged workers and part-time workers who would prefer to be full time, is at 12.7%.

On a non-seasonally adjusted basis, the unemployment rate was 7.2%, down from 7.5% in February, and payrolls rose by 941,000 (i.e., March is a month that normally sees a big employment gain, which is removed by the seasonal adjustment).

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