Statement: Chad Stone, Chief Economist, on the March Employment Report

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Michelle Bazie
202-408-1080
bazie@cbpp.org

Statement: Chad Stone, Chief Economist, on the March Employment Report

WASHINGTON - Today's jobs report provides further evidence that the labor market
has stabilized after experiencing its most severe jobs decline since the
1930s. Job losses slowed dramatically after President
Obama and Congress enacted the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in
February 2009, and the growth in payroll employment in
March 2010 is welcome news (see chart). Indeed, employers have added
117,000 jobs over the past five months, the report shows,
which stands in marked contrast to the 3.7 million job loss over the
same period a year earlier.

 Before breaking out the champagne,
however, we should understand that special factors, including temporary
hiring for the 2010 census, were important contributors to
the March gains. Moreover, we need much stronger job growth than we
have yet seen over a sustained period to reduce the
unemployment rate and erase the huge jobs deficit that remains the
legacy of the longest and deepest recession since the Great Depression.

That is why it is so disappointing that Congress has allowed the
Recovery Act measures providing extra weeks of unemployment insurance
(UI) and subsidized COBRA health insurance coverage for
unemployed workers to lapse and has failed to pass a meaningful jobs
bill that would provide a needed boost to the nascent
economic recovery. Extending the Recovery Act's UI and COBRA provisions
to the end of the year and providing additional fiscal
assistance to cash-strapped states - two critical provisions in the
pending congressional jobs bills - are widely recognized as
highly effective ways to boost economic activity and create jobs.
Congress should act quickly to pass legislation that includes those
measures. They will help workers struggling to find a job
and in danger of losing their UI benefits, and they will help the
economy.

About the March Jobs Report

While the labor market has stabilized after a long
deterioration, there are many more people looking for work than there
are new jobs being created and the job market is still
depressed.

  • Private and government payrolls rose by
    162,000 jobs in March, with 48,000 of those jobs coming from temporary
    government hiring for the decennial census. Private-sector
    payrolls rose by 123,000 jobs. Some of the March job growth may also
    reflect a rebound from the temporary effects of severe winter
    weather in suppressing job growth in February. Despite the gains in
    March, net job losses since the recession began in December 2007
    total 8.2 million. (Private-sector payrolls have shrunk by 8.3 million
    jobs over the period.)
  • Revisions to the data show that
    the economy added rather than lost jobs in January and that February's
    job losses were smaller than previously reported. Over the past
    five months, employers have added a net 117,000 jobs to their payrolls,
    compared with a loss of 3.7 million jobs over the same period a
    year earlier.
  • For the third straight month, the
    unemployment rate remained at 9.7 percent, 4.7 percentage points higher
    than at the start of the recession.
  • For the third straight
    month, more people entered the labor force than left it; the labor
    force participation rate (the percentage of people with a job or
    actively looking for a job) edged up to 64.9 percent in March. The
    combination of an increase in labor force participation and a steady
    unemployment rate resulted in a slight rise in the percentage of
    the population with a job, from 58.5 percent to 58.6 percent.
    Nevertheless, both the labor force participation rate and the
    percentage of the population with a job remain near lows that were last
    seen in 1986 and 1983, respectively.
  • The Labor
    Department's most comprehensive alternative unemployment rate measure -
    which includes people who want to work but are discouraged from
    looking and people working part time because they can't find full-time
    jobs - edged up to 16.9 percent in March. While that figure is below
    the peak of 17.4 percent reached in October 2009, it is still
    quite high.
  • Long-term unemployment remains a significant
    concern. Over two-fifths (44.1 percent) of the 15.0 million people who
    are unemployed have been looking for work for 27 weeks or
    longer. These long-term unemployed represent 4.3 percent of the labor
    force, a higher percentage than at any point in the past six
    decades (the next highest was 2.6 percent in June 1983).
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The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is one of the nation’s premier policy organizations working at the federal and state levels on fiscal policy and public programs that affect low- and moderate-income families and individuals.

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