March Job Report Rebounds

Sorohan, Mike msorohan@mba.org

April 08, 2019

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 196,000 in March, while the unemployment rate was unchanged at 3.8 percent, Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday.

BLS said the number of unemployed persons was essentially unchanged at 6.2 million.

BLS revised January and February data upward. January employment changed from +311,000 to +312,000 and February employment changed from +20,000 to +33,000. With these revisions, employment gains in January and February combined were 14,000 more than previously reported. After revisions, job gains have averaged 180,000 per month over the past three months.

"The 196,000 jobs added to the U.S. economy in March reversed the slowdown in February, but more importantly, it showed that job creation overall remains robust," said Joel Kan, Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting with the Mortgage Bankers Association. "Additionally, we saw a bounce back in construction employment last month, with a decent gain of 16,000 jobs. These developments, along with lower mortgage rates and easing price growth, lay the foundation for steady housing demand as we move further into the spring home buying season."

Sarah House, senior economist with Wells Fargo Securities, Charlotte, N.C., said while payroll growth picked up in March, the trend in hiring continues to slow. "The global slowdown and trade headwinds are becoming more evident in the payroll data, with manufacturers shedding 6,000 jobs in March--the first cut in a little over a year and a half, she said.

BLS reported the labor force participation rate fell by 0.2 percent to 63 percent. The employment-population ratio was 60.6 percent in March and has been either 60.6 percent or 60.7 percent since October 2018.

"We are always cautious about reading deeply into any single month's move in the household survey, but the pullback suggests some limits to the extent to which labor force participation can rise amid shifting industry and geographic growth trends," House said.

BLS reported the average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased by 0.1 hour to 34.5 hours in March, offsetting a decline of 0.1 hour in February. In manufacturing, the average workweek was unchanged in March at 40.7 hours, while overtime decreased by 0.1 hour to 3.4 hours. The average workweek for production and nonsupervisory employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 0.1 hour to 33.7 hours.

The report said average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 4 cents to $27.70, following a 10-cent gain in February. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by 3.2 percent. Average hourly earnings of private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees increased by 6 cents to $23.24 in March.

"The 3.2 percent growth in hourly earnings is good news for the housing market, as wage growth continues to more closely align with home-price gains," Kan said.

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