04.06.2012 News Releases, Policy Points

National Job Market Ran In Place In March

CHAPEL HILL (April 6, 2012) – The national employment situation held steady in March, as employers added 120,000 more payroll positions than they eliminated. Moreover, the unemployment rate essentially held constant at 8.2 percent with unemployment rates largely holding steady among major demographic groups. While the labor market has improved recently, unemployment remains high, and overall conditions are far from healthy.

“March marked the 18th consecutive month of job growth in the United States,” said John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, Ltd., a research firm specializing in economic and social policy. “Compared to the developments of recent years, 2012 is off to a good start with the national economy having gained 635,000 more jobs than it has lost. Given the magnitude of the recent recession, however, the economy still is not growing fast enough to drive unemployment down to normal levels.”

In March, the nation’s employers added 120,000 more payroll positions than they cut. Gains occurred entirely in the private sector (+121,000), while government payrolls fell by 1,000 positions due mainly to cuts by local governments. Additionally, the payroll employment numbers for January and February underwent revisions; with the updates, the economy gained 515,000 jobs over those two months, not the 511,000 positions previously reported.

Most major private-sector industry groups netted jobs in March. Leisure and hospitality services netted the most positions (+39,000, due almost entirely to gains in the accommodation and food service sub-sector), followed by education and health services and manufacturing (both +37,000). Meanwhile, the trade, transportation, and utilities sector shed the most positions (-26,000 due mainly to reductions in the retail trade sub-sector), followed by the information (-9,000) and construction sectors (-7,000).

“Over the past three months, the economy has gained an average of approximately 212,000 jobs,” noted Quinterno. “The current pace of job growth is nevertheless modest relative to the size of the overall jobs gap. The American economy still faces a shortfall of almost 10 million jobs—a gap that will take several years to close at the current pace of growth.”

Soft employment conditions were evident in the March household survey. Last month, 12.7 million Americans (8.2 percent of the labor force) were jobless and seeking work. The number of unemployed Americans and the unemployment rate basically held steady last month, as did the share of the population participating in the labor force (63.8 percent) and the share of the adult population with a job (58.5 percent); regardless, all of those indicators remained at depressed levels.

Last month, the unemployment rate was higher among adult male workers than female ones (7.6 percent versus 7.4 percent). Unemployment rates were higher among Black (14 percent) and Hispanic workers (10.3 percent) than among White ones (7.3 percent). The unemployment rate among teenagers was 25 percent. Moreover, 7.5 percent of all veterans were unemployed in March; the rate among recent veterans (served after September 2001) was 10.3 percent.

Jobs remained difficult to find in March. Last month, the underemployment rate equaled 14.5 percent. Among unemployed workers, 42.5 percent had been jobless for at least six months with the average spell of unemployment lasting for 39.4 weeks.

“The March employment report shows that the American economy is continuing to add jobs, though not as rapidly as is needed or would be expected following a recession as severe asthe recent one,” observed Quinterno. “The March employment report illustrates both the degree to which conditions have improved from the depths of the recession and just how far from healthy the national labor market remains.”

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