The official jobs report released Friday showed that the economy added 215,000 in March. The report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) showed that job creation beat economists’ predictions of 210,000 jobs. March numbers were down from the 245,000 jobs added in February due to layoffs in the oil and gas industry and manufacturing. The unemployment rate is essentially unchanged at 5 percent.
As it always does, the BLS revised the previously reported numbers for January down from 172,000 to 168,000. The February totals were revised upward from 242,000 to 245,000. With these revisions, employment gains in January and February combined were 1,000 less than previously reported. Over the past three months, job gains have averaged 209,000 per month.
Hourly wages for all workers went up by seven cents to $25.43 after dropping two cents in February. Over the year, average hourly earnings have risen by 2.3 percent. In March, average hourly earnings of private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees increased by 4 cents to $21.37, showing the disparity between employees designated as supervisory and those who are not.
Of the 215,000 jobs added in March, 20,000 were in the public sector. Local governments went on a hiring spree, adding 19,000 positions and nearly 13,000 of those jobs were non-education jobs. The federal government added 2,000 jobs many by the IRS to process tax returns. State governments shed 1,000 workers.
Retail trade added 48,000 jobs in March with the largest gains in general merchandise stores, health and personal care stores, and building material and garden supply stores. Over the past 12 months, retail trade has added 378,000 jobs.
Construction employment rose by 37,000 in March. Job gains occurred among residential specialty trade contractors (+12,000) and in heavy and civil engineering construction (+11,000). Over the year, construction has added 301,000 jobs.
Employment in health care increased by 37,000 in March, in line with the average monthly gain over the last 12 months. Over the year, health care employment has increased by 503,000. This is due to the fact more people are insured due to Obamacare and are seeking care.
Food services and drinking places added 25,000 jobs. Banks and financial services added 15,000. Professional and business services changed little for the third month in a row. In 2015, the industry added an average of 52,000 jobs per month.
The bad news is that employment in manufacturing declined by 29,000 in March. Most of the job losses occurred in durable goods industries including machinery primary metals, and semiconductors and electronic components. A decline in durable goods is often a predictor of a slowing economy ahead.
Mining employment continued to decline in March by 12,000 with losses concentrated in support activities for oil and gas production. Since reaching a peak in September 2014, employment in mining has decreased by 185,000 due to low oil prices.
“It’s a very solid report,” Michael Arone, chief investment strategist at State Street Global Advisors told CNBC, adding he was not sure it’s going to mean all that much to the stock market today. ADP estimated on that March job growth in the private sector was 200,000, a decline from its February calculation of 205,000.
The economy is generally keeping up with population growth on job creation, but it is not generating sufficient jobs to eliminate the number long-term unemployed persons. Wages are not rising at the levels needed. Both of these problems could be helped if Congress would pass a bill to increase spending on infrastructure projects, but that will not happen in the Republican controlled Congress. So, it appears that we will just keeping pace not gaining ground.