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You are Here: Home > Blog > Unemployment Rate – March 2016

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Unemployment Rate – March 2016

Friday, April 1st, 2016

The March unemployment rate ticked up a notch while net job growth was slightly above economists’ expectations.

According to the most recent monthly report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the private sector netted 195,000 nonfarm job gains in March. Local, state and federal governments netted 20,000 jobs, resulting in 215,000 total net job gains. Economists had expected 199,000-205,000 total net job gains, according to various sources.

The unemployment rate ticked up from 4.9 to 5.0 percent in March from February. (More information about the unemployment rate is below.)

The private sector has now gained nonfarm jobs for 73 consecutive months since the Great Recession. The unemployment rate has dropped 5.0 percentage points from the recessionary high of 10.0 set in October 2009.

The BLS also revised job gains for January 2016 and February 2016, showing that the economy netted 1,000 fewer jobs than the BLS had previously estimated for the two months. Net nonfarm job gains have averaged 209,000 per month over the past three months.

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Job growth continued in the retail trade. The industry gained 48,000 jobs in March, after gaining 58,000 in January and 55,000 in February. The industry has netted 378,000 job gains over the past year.

At 37,000, job growth also continued in health care. The industry has added 503,000 jobs in 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.

Construction, one the measures of labor-market health, gained 37,000 jobs. The industry has gained 301,000 jobs over the past year.

Manufacturing, also a measure of labor-market health, lost 29,000 jobs after few gains throughout 2015 and this year so far. (See Table B by the BLS for more job numbers listed by industry.)

Mining lost 12,000 jobs in March, due mostly to lower oil prices. The industry has lost 185,000 jobs since reaching a job-growth peak in September 2014.

Among the major work groups tracked by the BLS, teenagers again suffered the highest unemployment rate (15.9 percent) followed by Blacks (9.0), Hispanics (5.6), adult women (4.6), adult men (4.5), whites (4.3) and Asians (4.0, not seasonally adjusted). No group experienced a significant change in their unemployment rate.

Workers who are 25 years of age or older and who have earned four-year college degrees or higher experienced a 2.6 percent unemployment rate in March, after holding at 2.5 percent since June 2015. Those in the same age group and who don’t have high school diplomas suffered a much-higher 7.4 percent rate, up slightly from 7.3 in February. (See Table A-5 by the BLS for more information about the unemployment rate by education level.)

Unemployment Rate 2008 to 2016
Unemployment Rate Chart 2008 to 2016

The unemployment rate ticked up 0.1 percent in March even though net job growth was more than expected, because more workers entered or re-entered the job market. Economists consider an unemployment rate of 5.0 percent to be normal. It has held at or very near that level since August 2015.

The number of workers that the BLS counted as unemployed in March was 8.0 million, up from 7.8 million in the month before. In order for the BLS to count workers as unemployed, they must have been actively seeking jobs in the four weeks preceding the count.

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 6.1 million, up slightly from 6.0 million in February.

The average workweek for all part-timers and full-timers in the private sector was 34.4 hours in March, unchanged from February. Their average hourly earnings increased by 7 cents to $25.43. Average hourly earnings have risen by 2.3 percent in a year. For private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees, average hourly earnings increased by 4 cents to $21.37.

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 — at least not for them.

The number of marginally-attached workers in March was 1.7 million, down slightly from 1.8 million in February. Among the marginally-attached, 585,000 were so-called “discouraged workers” because they gave up looking for work due to their shared perception that there are no jobs. The number of discouraged workers was down by 14,000 from the 599,000 that the BLS initially reported for February, and by 153,000 from a year ago. (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 2.2 million in March. The number of long-term unemployed workers has been about the same since June 2015. These workers accounted for 27.6 percent of the unemployed in March. 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 2016 unemployment rate and job numbers, see the “Employment Situation Summary” by the BLS. The BLS plans to report the April 2016 unemployment rate and job numbers on May 6. To receive notification like the above automatically, subscribe to Employee Rights Blog for free.

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Except where otherwise noted, 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.

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