Economic Indicators | Jobs and Unemployment

News from EPI Swings in the weather lead to swings in employment

This morning’s jobs report showed the economy added 103,000 jobs in March—a significant drop from the 326,000 added the month prior. However, February’s number was likely boosted by relatively mild weather, while the March number was likely depressed by relatively harsh weather. (Construction employment, which is notably tied to the weather, increased by 65,000 jobs in February, and then fell by 15,000 in March.) As such, I would caution against reading too much into this swing. Significant downward revisions in January’s topline number brought average payroll employment for the past three months to 202,000, which is enough to keep up with growth in the working age population and even pull people off the sidelines and into the labor market.

The unemployment rate held steady at 4.1 percent, and the labor force participation rate fell slightly, to 62.9 percent, after a notable rise last month. Again, the longer-term trend continues to move in the right direction as sidelined workers return to the labor force in search of jobs. Nominal wage growth for all nonfarm employees rose 2.7 percent over the year, while wage growth for production/nonsupervisory workers rose only 2.4 percent. Both are significantly below levels that would be consistent with a full employment economy, where wage growth reflected a combination of the Federal Reserve’s target inflation rate and long-run productivity potential. And, the gap between the two series reflects the continual growth of inequality in the economy today as supervisory workers continue to pull away from the vast majority of the workforce.

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