The Two-Way
6:40 am
Fri April 4, 2014

Jobless Rate Holds Steady As Employers Add 192,000 Jobs

Originally published on Fri April 4, 2014 11:09 am

This post has been updated.

The nation's unemployment rate was unchanged at 6.7 percent in March, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday.

Meanwhile, there were 192,000 more jobs on public and private payrolls last month — a bit under the 200,000 or so economists had expected but still above the average growth in previous months.

Also, BLS revised up the job growth in February. It now says there were 197,000 more jobs on payrolls that month than in January — an increase from the initial estimate of 175,000.

We've added more from the report, which was released at 8:30 a.m. ET, as well as reactions to it.

Update at 9:05 a.m. ET. So What's The Conclusion?

Here's how the news is being viewed:

-- "U.S. maintains solid job growth pace as winter fades." (Reuters)

-- "U.S. employers stepped up their pace of hiring in March, a sign of steady economic growth that suggests a winter slowdown was only temporary." (The Wall Street Journal)

-- "Surge in people entering labor force keeps unemployment flat at 6.7%." (MarketWatch)

Update at 8:55 a.m. ET. "Participation Rate" Is Up, But It's Still Pretty Low:

There's almost always an "on the one hand, on the other hand" element to any economic data. That's true again today.

The report says the "labor force participation rate" edged up to 63.2 percent in March from 63 percent in both of the previous two months and 62.8 percent in December. In theory, when more people find jobs or decide to look for them — in other words, as they "participate" in the labor market — that's a good sign because it means folks think there are jobs to be had.

But BLS data show that the participation rate is still well below the 66.4 percent point it touched in late 2006 — a year before the most recent recession officially began.

Update at 8:50 a.m. ET. Why The Numbers May Not Tell The Whole Story:

"The headline numbers of jobs added and the overall unemployment are, however, becoming less relevant indicators of how strong or weak the labor market actually is," Reuters writes. "The U.S. has been adding jobs at a low but steady rate for years, and unemployment has been falling. But the debate about what economists call slack in the labor market focuses on other indicators: wage growth (which has not been strong for several years), long-term unemployment, and the percentage of Americans participating in the jobs market."

Update at 8:45 a.m. ET. No Pressure On The Fed?

Because job growth remained modest and the unemployment rate didn't change, "the report is unlikely to put pressure on the Fed to raise rates any time soon," The Wall Street Journal writes. As we wrote on Monday, "bad" news about the economy may actually be "good" news for the financial markets.

Update at 8:40 a.m. ET. Where The Growth Was.

According to BLS:

"Professional and business services added 57,000 jobs in March, in line with its average monthly gain of 56,000 over the prior 12 months. Within the industry, employment increased in March in temporary help services (+29,000), in computer systems design and related services (+6,000), and in architectural and engineering services (+5,000).

"In March, health care added 19,000 jobs. Employment in ambulatory health care services rose by 20,000, with a gain of 9,000 jobs in home health care services. Nursing care facilities lost 5,000 jobs over the month. Job growth in health care averaged 17,000 per month over the prior 12 months. ...

"Construction employment continued to trend up in March (+19,000). Over the past year, construction employment has risen by 151,000."

Our original post — "Unemployment Rate Likely Dipped Last Month" — previewed the news:

When the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases data this morning on the March unemployment rate and the number of jobs added to payrolls last month, economists expect to hear:

-- That there were about 200,000 more jobs than in February.

-- That the jobless rate edged down to 6.6 percent from February's 6.7 percent.

NPR's John Ydstie previewed the report on Morning Edition. As he said, 200,000 more jobs "would be much better than the 130,000 average increase over the past three months, when most analysts agree the economy was held back by bad weather."

A month ago, when the BLS said employers had added 175,000 jobs to their payrolls, the news was slightly better than economists had expected. That figure could be revised in today's report.

The data are due out at 8:30 a.m. ET. We'll be updating with the news, highlights, reactions and analysis.

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