The unemployment rate in March held steady at its lowest level since 2008, but the economy snapped a 12-month streak of over 200,000 jobs per month.
According to the most recent monthly report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the private sector netted 129,000 nonfarm job gains in March. Local, state and federal governments lost 3,000 nonfarm jobs.
The total net job gains in March were 126,000, the fewest in 15 months and well below the monthly average of 269,000 jobs in the past 12 months. The unemployment rate remained at 5.5 percent, the lowest rate since May of 2008 (when it was 5.4 percent and rising).
The private sector has now gained nonfarm jobs for 61 consecutive months since the Great Recession, the longest streak of uninterrupted job growth in U.S. history. (Prior to March, the economy had netted over 200,000 jobs per month for 12 consecutive months, the longest such streak in nearly 20 years.) The unemployment rate has dropped 4.5 percentage points from the recessionary high of 10 percent in October 2009.
The BLS revised job gains for January and February, showing that the economy netted 69,000 fewer jobs over the two months than the BLS had previously estimated. Even so, job gains were still over 200,000 in each month. Net job gains have averaged 197,000 per month since the beginning of this year.
Job growth continued in the professional and business services industry, at 40,000. Although employment in this industry continues to grow, job gains in 2015 so far have been less than the average monthly gain of 59,000 in 2014. Job gains have averaged 34,000 per month in 2015.
At 22,000, health care yet again added jobs. The industry has added 363,000 jobs over the past year. Much of the industry’s steady job growth over the past few years, even throughout the Great Recession, is attributable to the increasing medical demands of aging baby boomers and the ever-growing obesity epidemic, and to provisions in the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) as well.
Manufacturing, an industry that economists consider to be a gauge of labor-market health, lost 1,000 jobs in March. The same goes for construction, also a measure of labor-market health.
Among the major work groups tracked by the BLS, teenagers again suffered the highest unemployment rate (17.5 percent) followed by blacks (10.1), Hispanics (6.8), adult men (5.1), adult women (4.9), whites (4.7) and Asians (3.2, not seasonally adjusted). No group experienced a significant change in their March unemployment rate except for Asians, who saw it drop by 0.8 percent.
Workers who are 25 years of age or older and who have earned four-year college degrees or higher experienced a 2.5 percent unemployment rate in March, down from 2.7 in February. Those in the same age group and who don’t have high school diplomas suffered a much-higher 8.6 percent rate, up from 8.4 in February.
The main reason that the unemployment rate held at 5.5 percent in March despite lackluster job growth, was because fewer unemployed workers and new entrants to the labor market were looking for jobs. For the BLS to count workers as officially unemployed, they must be actively seeking jobs in the four weeks preceding the count.
The number of workers that the BLS counted as unemployed in March was 8.6 million, down from 8.7 million in February. The number of unemployed persons has dropped by 1.8 million over the past year.
The count of unemployed workers does not include those who are involuntarily working only part time and with fewer benefits, if any, such as no health insurance, because they can’t find full-time jobs or employers cut their work hours. The number of involuntarily part-timers in March was 6.7 million, up from 6.6 million in February.
The average workweek for all part-timers and full-timers in the private sector dropped to 34.5 hours, after remaining at 34.6 hours for five months in a row. Their average hourly earnings rose 7 cents to $24.86. Average hourly earnings rose by 4 cents to $20.86 for private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees.
The unemployment rate also does not include “marginally-attached” unemployed workers. The BLS does not count them in the official rate because they stopped looking for work in the four weeks preceding the count, for reasons such as school attendance, family matters or their collective perception that there simply are no jobs.
The number of marginally-attached workers in March was 2.1 million, down from 2.2 million. Among the marginally-attached, 738,000 were so-called “discouraged workers” because they gave up looking for work due to their shared perception that there are no jobs — at least not for them. The number of discouraged workers was up by 6,000 from the 732,000 that the BLS initially reported for February. (The BLS does not seasonally adjust any of the figures in this paragraph.)
The number of long-term unemployed workers, those who have been without jobs for 27 weeks or longer, was 2.6 million in March, down slightly from 2.7 million in February. These workers accounted for 29.8 percent of the unemployed. The number of long-term unemployed workers has declined by 1.1 million over the past 12 months. Standard state unemployment benefits last only up to 26 weeks without extensions.
If you are a recent victim of job loss or a reduction in work hours resulting from the high unemployment rate, then you might be eligible to collect full or partial unemployment benefits from the state unemployment office. You might also be eligible to continue your employer-provided group health insurance coverage through COBRA.
For more details about the March 2015 unemployment rate and job numbers, see the “Employment Situation Summary” by the BLS. The BLS plans to report the April 2015 unemployment rate and job numbers on May 8. To receive notification like the above automatically, subscribe to Employee Rights Blog for free.
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Certain figures in this unemployment rate report were rounded and/or seasonally adjusted by the BLS, and are subject to revision by same (based on additional data that was not initially available). The unemployment rate chart pictured above was provided by the BLS.