Good and Bad in the March Employment Reports
The job reports for March, 2017 provided both positive and negative news for both employment and for the economy.
The Bad News
From a short term perspective, the news was less than stellar. While 98,000 new jobs were created in the month of March, that was a little more than half of the economists prediction of 180,000.
In addition, January’s and February’s numbers were revised downward by 38,000 job. Both months had exceeded economists expectations of growth for those months when reported.
March was somewhat of a surprise, given the results of the previous 12 months. March was the lowest growth month in that 12 month period.
Additionally, the retail sector saw significant job losses in the month, losing 30,000 jobs. When combined with the February retail numbers, there were a total of 56,000 jobs lost in retail. Experts cited retail’s continued re-balancing of staff as they try to understand the interplay of brick-and-mortar stores and online shopping.
The Good News
These number may seem bleak, but the long term trends for jobs is, overall, very positive.
Some of the good news from the report comes from unemployment. The unemployment fell from 4.7% in February to 4.5% in March, making it the lowest rate in the last 10 years. In addition, the number of workers in part-time jobs looking for full-time employment fell to 8.9%, also the lowest rate in several years.
All of this combined to tighten the labor market, causing a 2.7% increase in wages. While not as impressive as in strong economic times, which typically see wage increases in the range of 3 to 4%, it is an indicator that companies are paying more to find workers, and increasing the pay of those they employ to keep them from leaving.
Net/Net – A Positive Trend
Overall, the report presented a continued positive trend in the job market, even if somewhat slowed. While the gain is less than those seen over the last few years, continued increases at this same rate will put the jobs market back to where it was previous to the Great Recession.
For American workers and businesses, this means we are approaching “full employment”. This term refers to a job market in which those who want a job either has one or can reasonably expect to find one within 3 months.
With the given trends and outlooks, the projects for the labor market continue to be positive. Expect to see continued, if somewhat slowed job growth and higher wages over the next 12 months.