Spectacular Job numbers not an April’s Fool Joke

Monster numbers today: U.S. Payrolls Grew in March At Fastest Pace in Four Years

U.S. employers in March hired workers at the fastest clip in four years, offering the brightest sign yet for the struggling labor market. Nonfarm business payrolls grew by 308,000 jobs last month, faster than at any time since April of 2000.

Yesterday’s fears of highly revised numbers were not realized. The initial read, as well as the drill down beneath the headline number, was very positive.

The WSJ observed:

“Still, the unemployment rate inched up a tenth of a percentage point to 5.7%. In recent months, the unemployment rate has declined mainly because people grew discouraged and stopped looking for work. But the uptick suggests that more job seekers renewed their searches last month.

The report surpassed forecasts. Economists had expected payrolls to grow by only 120,000 jobs, and for the unemployment rate to hold steady at 5.6%, according to a survey by Dow Jones Newswires and CNBC.

Economists had been betting since December that faster economic growth would spur employers to hire workers at a pace of about 120,000 a month. They were consistently proven wrong: the average monthly job growth since August has been just 108,429.

Although “one month of strong gains doesn’t make a trend,” this is a very hopeful sign. We now move to waiting until next month — which will have a little cleaner data — to confirm the shift in hiring.

CBS Marketwatch noted:

“Economists said several technical factors likely boosted payrolls in March, including the end of the grocery strike and the return to more seasonable weather.

Payroll growth in previous months was also revised higher, by a total of 86,000 jobs. January’s gain was revised from 97,000 to 159,000 while February’s was revised to 46,000 from 21,000. Over the past eight months, payrolls have grown by 759,000, about 95,000 a month. The economy needs to create about 130,000 to 150,000 jobs a month to absorb population growth.”

Here’s some otherinteresting data points:

-Employment in the manufacturing sector did not fall for the first time in 44 months (it was unchanged);

-Construction added 71,000 jobs, likely a partial rebound from bad weather in February.

-Payrolls in services rose by 230,000 jobs — a huge bump. (that included 47,000 in retail).

-Temporary help services jobs fell by 2,000;

– 31,000 government jobs were added, most in education;

– Of 278 industries, 61 percent reported higher payrolls in March, the largest percentage since July 2000.

Source: CBS Marketwatch

There were a few oddities in the numbers: Despite the increase in jobs, hours worked in the economy fell by 0.1 percent. The average workweek also fell by a tenth of an hour to 33.7 hours. Hours worked in the manufacturing fell 0.3 percent, with a drop of 0.1 percentage points in the average workweek to 40.9.

While the payroll survey of 400,000 business establishments painted a rosy portrait of the U.S. labor market, the separate survey of 66,000 households was not as positive. Total employment fell by 3,000 while unemployment rose by 182,000 to 8.35 million. The labor participation rate was unchanged at 65.9 percent.

Taken together, the economy added 513,000 jobs in the first quarter of 2004, welcome news to a presidential administration that has seen 2 million jobs evaporate in the three years since it took office.

Payrolls finally explode
308,000 new jobs created in March; jobless rate 5.7%
By Rex Nutting
CBS.MarketWatch.com, 9:33 AM ET April 2, 2004

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