The U.S. unemployment rate dipped to 8.2 percent in March, despite that the economy added fewer jobs than economists had expected.
According to data that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released today, the economy gained 120,000 nonfarm jobs. The private sector gained 121,000 nonfarm jobs, but continuing government layoffs dropped the net gain to 120,000.
Economists had expected at least 210,000 jobs, according to Reuters. That’s likely at least partly because the economy had added an average of 246,000 jobs per month from December through February. The private sector has now gained jobs for 25 consecutive months, with total nonfarm employment showing net job gains in each of the last 18 of those months.
At 39,000, the most notable March net job gains were in the leisure and hospitality industry, with employment in restaurants and bars rising by 37,000. The industry has added 563,000 jobs since a low point in February 2010.
Next in line was manufacturing by adding 37,000 jobs, with motor vehicles and parts accounting for the most at 12,000. Factory jobs have risen by 470,000 since a low point in January 2010.
Health care netted 26,000 jobs in March. Much of the industry’s continued job growth over the past few years, even throughout the Great Recession, is attributable to the increasing medical demands of aging baby boomers and the obesity epidemic, and to provisions in President Obama’s Affordable Care Act as well.
The retail trade industry lost 34,000 jobs in March, mostly in general merchandise stores. Construction (-7,000) and temporary help services (-7,500) also lost jobs.
Among the major work groups tracked by the BLS, teenagers again suffered the highest unemployment rate (25.0 percent) followed by blacks (14.0), Hispanics (10.3), adult men (7.6), adult women (7.4), whites (7.3) and Asians (6.2, not seasonally adjusted). Workers who have four-year college degrees or higher suffered a 4.2 percent unemployment rate in March, while those without a high school diploma suffered the most at a 12.6 percent rate.
Unemployment Rate 2008 to 2012
The unemployment rate dropped to 8.2 percent in March after hovering at 8.3 percent for two months. March’s rate was the lowest since 7.8 percent in January 2009, when President Obama took office. The BLS counted 12.7 million workers as unemployed in March, down from 12.8.
The unemployment rate does not include workers who are involuntarily working only part time and with fewer benefits, if any, such as no health insurance, because they can’t find full-time jobs or employers cut their work hours.
The number of involuntarily part-timers was 7.7 million in March, down from 8.1 in February. The average workweek for both part-timers and full-timers edged down by 0.1 to 34.5 hours. Average hourly earnings increased five cents to $23.39.
The unemployment rate also does not include “marginally-attached” unemployed workers. The BLS does not count them in the official rate because they stopped looking for work in the four weeks preceding the count, for reasons such as school attendance, family matters or their collective perception that there are no jobs.
The number of marginally-attached unemployed workers in March was 2.4 million, down from 2.6 in February. Among the marginally-attached, 865,000 million were so-called “discouraged workers” because they gave up looking for work due to their shared perception that there are no jobs, at least not for them. The number of discouraged workers was down from 1.0 million.
The number of long-term unemployed workers, those who have been unemployed for 27 weeks or longer, dropped from 5.4 to 5.3 million in March and accounted for 42.5 percent of all unemployed workers. Standard state unemployment benefits last only up to 26 weeks without extensions.
President Obama recently signed a new law that stretches out eligibility for unemployment benefit extensions through 2012. The law also extends the 2011 payroll tax cut through 2012.
If you are a recent victim of job loss or a reduction in work hours resulting from the high unemployment rate, then you might be eligible to collect full or partial unemployment benefits from the state unemployment office. You might also be eligible to continue your employer-provided group health insurance coverage through COBRA. To look for a new job, start at the Job Search page.