The most recent jobs numbers were released today and the results indicate a slower recovery than many had predicted. The country's employers added ony 120,000 jobs in March, about half of the job gains for the previous months.
The report also indictes that between Janaury and February 2012, 584,000 public-sector jobs were lost, largely due to cuts in government services.
* * *
New York Times: Jobs Report Tempers Hopes of Accelerating U.S. Recovery
Although signs had pointed to a strengthening economy earlier this year, the jobs report on Friday came with a message: don’t get ahead of yourself.
The country’s employers added a disappointing 120,000 jobs in March, about half the gains posted in each of the preceding three months. The unemployment rate, which comes from a separate survey of households rather than employers, slipped to 8.2 percent from 8.3 percent, as a lower portion of the population were looking for work.
The slowdown suggests that employers remain cautious about hiring as they digest the impact of rising gas prices and uncertainty about healthcare and pensions costs.
Politicians seized on the slippage, with the Republican front-runner, Mitt Romney, characterizing the report as “weak and very troubling.” President Obama, for his part, acknowledged the “ups and downs” of the job market.
While there have been some indications, like falling unemployment claims, that the job market was finding its footing, anxieties about whether a stronger pace of recovery could be sustained have been building in recent weeks.
Global stock markets grew skittish this week as Spain’s ballooning debt level and weak bond offering raised the specter of a deepening economic slump in Europe. After a strong first quarter, the United States stock market has had several days of declines. Ben S. Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, has tried to temper expectations and noted in a speech last month that the recent “better jobs numbers seem somewhat out of sync with the overall pace of economic expansion.”
The March pullback eerily repeats a pattern set in the last two years, when job growth appeared to be picking up in the winter, only to slow down in the spring. The monthly snapshot of the job market from the Labor Department can reflect transitory factors, however, and are often revised.
Economists suggested that the trend among employers to wring more work from fewer people continues to be a hallmark of the recession’s aftermath.
“What we are seeing now is an agonizingly slow recovery in the job market,” said Bernard Baumohl, chief global economist at the Economic Outlook Group. “I believe what this reflects is this laser focus intensity that business leaders have nowadays to try to be able to increase production with less reliance on labor as a means to do so.”
Private sector companies added 121,000 jobs in March as government shed 1,000 jobs, driven by layoffs in the postal system and at the local level.
Among industries, manufacturing continued its run as the stalwart of job growth, adding 37,000 jobs in March.
But economists cautioned that factories were unlikely to bring back a majority of the 2 million people who lost their jobs during the recession.
Rather, manufacturers are recalibrating. “In the worst of a downturn like this, they probably kicked too many people out the door,” said Cliff Waldman, senior economist at MAPI/the Manufacturers Alliance. “And now even with modest growth they have to bring people back.”
And despite recent improvements in retail sales, retailers shed nearly 34,000 jobs last month, a sign, some economists said, that the rapid incursion of e-commerce has hurt employment in the sector.
“You simply need fewer workers when you’re selling from a distribution center,” said Patrick O’Keefe, director of economic research at J.H. Cohn and a deputy assistant secretary for employment and training in the Reagan administration.
* * *
Today’s jobs report: Good news or bad news? Depends on whom you talk to.
While the report from the Department of Labor shows that 120,000 jobs were added in March, those jobs were far below the number added in January and February and missed the target number of additional jobs that forecasters expected. In addition, the unemployment rate dropped slightly to 8.2 percent.
Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney expressed worry over the jobs report and said the decreased unemployment rate reflected discouraged workers exiting the job search. Romney released a statement today saying the jobs report is “weak and very troubling” and “shows the employment market remains stagnant. Millions of Americans are paying a high price for President Obama’s economic policies, and more and more people are growing so discouraged that they are dropping out of the labor force altogether. It is increasingly clear the Obama economy is not working and that after three years in office the President’s excuses have run out.”
Obama “welcomed” today’s news from the jobs report and said, “Right now, no issue is more important than restoring economic security for all our families in the wake of the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression,” at today’s White House Forum on Women and the Economy. The White House said the report provides “further evidence that the economy is continuing to recover.”
But the White House was was cautious in taking too much stock in the report’s indicators. ”Monthly employment and unemployment figures can be volatile,” the White House said in the statement. “It is important not to read too much into any one monthly report.” During the forum, the president qualified the good news again, saying, “it’s clear to every American that there will still be ups and downs along the way, and that we’ve got a lot more work to do.”
# # #