The March unemployment rate dropped to its lowest level in a decade, even though job growth was relatively unimpressive in President Trump’s second full month in office.
According to the most recent monthly report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the private sector netted 89,000 nonfarm job gains in March. Local, state and federal governments gained 9,000 jobs, resulting in only 98,000 total net job gains.
Economists had expected fewer total net job gains than in January and February, according to those surveyed by The Washington Post. That’s because unseasonably warm weather in those months boosted hiring in several industries. Then a cold snap and winter storms in the East Coast and Midwest in March hurt hiring across several industries.
Professional and business services, mining, and health care experienced significant job gains in March (56,000, 11,000 and 14,000 respectively), while retail lost jobs (-30,000). Construction, which gained the most jobs (59,000) thanks to the warmer first two months of this year, gained only 6,000 jobs during the cold snap of March.
The unemployment rate in March dropped to 4.5 percent, its lowest since April 2007 when it was also 4.5. (See the chart below).
The average hourly wage for all private-sector employees showed a solid monthly gain, rising by 5 cents to $26.14 following a 7 cent increase last month. The average hourly wage increased by 4 cents to $21.90 for private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees, after a 4 cent increase last month.
The BLS revised job gains for January 2017 and February 2017, showing that the economy netted 38,000 fewer jobs than the BLS had previously estimated for the two months. Net job gains have averaged 178,000 per month since the beginning of this year, after averaging 187,000 per month last year.
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The unemployment rate dropped by 0.2 percent to its lowest level in a decade, mostly because the BLS counted fewer unemployed workers. The number of workers that the BLS counted as unemployed was 7.2 million, down by 326,000 from February.
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 5.6 million, down slightly from 5.7 million in February.
The average workweek for all part-timers and full-timers in the private sector in March was 34.3 hours, virtually unchanged from December through February.
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 1.6 million, down a bit from 1.7 million last month. Among the marginally-attached, 460,000 were so-called “discouraged workers” because they gave up looking for work due to their shared perception that there are no jobs. That was down by a whopping 62,000 from the 522,000 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 1.7 million in March, down a little from 1.8 million in February. These workers accounted for 23.3 percent of the unemployed. 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 2017 unemployment rate and job numbers, see the “Employment Situation Summary” by the BLS. The BLS plans to report the April 2017 unemployment rate and job numbers on Friday, May 5. 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.