Jobs Growth Numbers Well Below Consensus

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The US economy added only 120,000 jobs in March–a huge disappointment. Most consensus forecasts were for 210,000. There had been a concern that improved hiring over the last five months would need to pause.

Unemployment stayed at 8.2%. The most damage done to employee count was a drop in retail jobs.

The BLS reports

Employment rose in manufacturing, food services and drinking places, and health care, but was down in retail trade.

Among the worst news was the long-term unemployed, considered one of the most daunting problems facing the economy, did not change much in number:

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks and over) was essentially unchanged at 5.3 million in March. These individuals accounted for 42.5 percent of the unemployed.

Another disappointing number was that the average workweek fell .1% to 34.6 hours. On the other hand, wages rose a nickel on average to $23.39 per hour.

A breakdown by sector

Manufacturing employment rose by 37,000 in March, with gains in motor vehicles and parts (+12,000), machinery (+7,000), fabricated metals (+5,000), and paper manufacturing (+3,000). Factory employment has risen by 470,000 since a recent low point in January 2010.

Within leisure and hospitality, employment in food services and drinking places rose by 37,000 in March and has risen by 563,000 since a recent low point in February 2010.

In March, health care employment continued to grow (+26,000). Within the industry, offices of physicians and hospitals each added 8,000 jobs over the month.

Employment in financial activities was up by 15,000 in March, with most of the gain occurring in credit intermediation (+11,000).

Employment in professional and business services continued to trend up in March (+31,000). Employment in the industry has grown by 1.4 million since a recent low point in September 2009. In March, services to buildings and dwellings added 23,000 jobs. Employment in temporary help services was about unchanged over the month after increasing by 55,000 in February.

Retail trade employment fell by 34,000 in March. A large job loss in general merchandise stores (-32,000) and small losses in other retail industries more than offset gains in health and personal care stores (+6,000) and in building material and garden supply stores (+5,000).

Employment in the other major private-sector industries, including mining, construction, wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, and information, changed little in March.