Another “Meh” Jobs Report

March's Jobs Report was about as uplifting as the numbers in the past.

Stormtrooper Unemployment

Heading into today’s release of the March Jobs Report, the consensus among economists and stock market analysts was calling for a net increase of roughly 200,000 jobs in March, a number largely consistent with the numbers that we saw in January and February. As I’ve noted in the past, this is a number that is barely enough to keep up with population growth and new entrants into the job growth, and hardly where we need to be to move the economy forward and get those people who have been employed for a year or more back to work. As it turns out, this kind of okay but not really that great number is exactly what we got this morning:

In March, the number of unemployed persons was essentially unchanged at 10.5 million, and the unemployment rate held at 6.7 percent. Both measures have shown little movement since December 2013. Over the year, the number of unemployed persons and the unemployment rate were down by 1.2 million and 0.8 percentage point, respectively. (See table A-1.)

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate for adult women increased to 6.2 teenagers (20.9 percent), whites (5.8 percent), blacks (12.4 percent), and Hispanics (7.9 percent) showed little or no change. The jobless rate for Asians was 5.4 percent (not seasonally adjusted), little changed from a year earlier. (See tables A-1, A-2, and A-3.)

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 192,000 in March. Job growth averaged 183,000 per month over the prior 12 months. In March, employment grew in professional and business services, in health care, and in mining and logging. (See table B-1.)

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.

Employment in mining and logging rose in March (+7,000), with the bulk of the increase  occurring in support activities for mining (+5,000). Over the prior 12 months, the mining and logging industry added an average of 3,000 jobs per month.

Employment continued to trend up in March in food services and drinking places (+30,000). Over the past year, food services and drinking places has added 323,000 jobs.

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

Employment in government was unchanged in March. A decline of 9,000 jobs in federal government was mostly offset by an increase of 8,000 jobs in local government, excluding education. Over the past year, employment in federal government has fallen by 85,000.

Employment in other major industries, including manufacturing, wholesale trade, retail trade, transportation and warehousing, information, and financial activities, changed
little over the month.


The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for January was revised from +129,000 to +144,000, and the change for February was revised from +175,000 to +197,000. With these revisions, employment gains in January and February were 37,000 higher than previously reported.

There isn’t really a whole lot more to add to the report itself. The New York Times, CNBC, and Reuters all have their own summaries on today’s numbers and, so far at least, Wall Street seems to be fairly unimpressed by the report. At the very least, what this is likely to mean in the short term is that the Federal Reserve will continue to be reluctant to easy up on the easy money policies it has been pursuing for the  past several years now, although it’s entirely unclear what benefit those policies are actually having outside of Wall Street.

More importantly, though, we’ve got yet another month of fair-to-middling job growth and that leads to the question of whether we’re stuck in a rut or if we’re living in the new normal. Looking back through the employment reports that have been released in the more than four years since the Great Recession was officially declared to be over, the trend has been quite obvious. With a few notable exceptions that have not been repeated in subsequent months, job growth has been in the same range between ~160,000 and ~200,000 new jobs added per month. As noted, that number is barely enough to make up for population growth and it means that we remain in the longest jobs recession in post World War II history. Indeed, as the The New York Times notes in an article posted to its website well before today’s numbers were released, the phenomenon of long term unemployment has become all too common in the economy of the 2010s. The White House will put its usual positive spin on today’s report, but there’s really nothing good here for anyone who wants to see a health economy. Indeed, given the early indications that First Quarter 2014 Gross Domestic Product numbers are likely to be very weak, we could be looking at yet another year of mediocre jobs growth. And that could have some interesting political implications.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. gVOR08 says:

    …we could be looking at yet another year of mediocre jobs growth. And that could have some interesting political implications.

    So you think, Doug, that McConnell and the GOPs’ strategy of obstructing Obama at every turn, even to the point of wrecking the economy, might work for them? You almost make it sound like you think that’s OK.

  2. al-Ameda says:

    GOP1: Oh crap, another positive jobs report.

    GOP2: Don’t worry, we’ll characterize it as evidence of the failure of Obama’s policies.

    GOP1: Yes I know but, I really miss those early days of 2009 when we were losing jobs at the rate of over 700,000 per month.

    GOP2: Me too, and I was really hoping that Obama would have let the Auto Industry go into bankruptcy, then the jobs loss might have topped 1M per month!

    GOP1: That would have been awesome!

    GOP2: Dude!

  3. stonetools says:

    Is there a word for repeating the same dumb blog post over and over again?

    So you think, Doug, that McConnell and the GOPs’ strategy of obstructing Obama at every turn, even to the point of wrecking the economy, might work for them? You almost make it sound like you think that’s OK.

    I think it is quite obvious that Doug is on board with that strategy. Why would he repeat the same jobs blog post over and over, without ever acknowledging that the reason for the slow recovery is precisely the GOP’s economic sabotage strategy? The clear implication is that the Obama Administration is somehow at fault for the slow recovery. Witness this little poison pill at the end:

    The White House will put its usual positive spin on today’s report, but there’s really nothing good here for anyone who wants to see a health economy.

    The implication here is that the White House isn’t doing anything to promote a healthy economy-all its doing is offering spin. There is no hint that the WH has tried numerous times to offer fiscal stimulus, only to be blocked by the GOP. Well done. Doug. Your slot at Pajamas Media is waiting.

  4. rudderpedals says:

    I could swear a day or three ago that C. Clavin predicted the appearance and tenor of this article.

  5. C. Clavin says:

    Translating Doug:

    Libertarian/Republican economic theories ideas about shrinking Government and cutting spending are failing to produce the promised results…and in the process f’ing up this economy…but I’ll never admit it…nor do I have any other ideas.

    I’m so sick and tired of this mindless

    we’re living in the new normal

    meme. This math is pretty f’ing simple. The CBO estimates that at full employment the labor force would be around 159M…the actual labor force is around 156M. That means there are just over 3M missing workers. We have eliminated a net 2M Government jobs. Replacing those 2M jobs would in turn create additional jobs.
    So OK…yes…if we are going to continue to carry a record low number of Public Sector employees…then this is the new normal. (Before anyone yells about the socialist President…we currently have the lowest number of the civilian government employees per capita going back to the 80’s…by a wide margin.)
    Everyone who rants about small Government and cutting spending…….Doug……ought to be f’ing thrilled. Not whining and moaning. The rest of us want to know where the booming economy that you promised austerity would bring is.

  6. C. Clavin says:

    damn skippy…

  7. stonetools says:

    For those who want informed commentary on the latest job report, I Recommend Justin Wolfers’ Twitter feed.
    Lots of detail, lots of charts. He is mildly optimistic. He notes that we have finally regained all the private sector jobs lost during the Great Recession, but that we are still losing federal jobs.
    I like this characterization:

    Nothing much in this jobs report for the pessimists; there’s a few small hints for the optimists. It’s just an ongoing underpowered recovery

    Leads us to the question of just why the recovery is underpowered, doesn’t it?

  8. Moosebreath says:

    Or as an alternative, one can see Kevin Drum’s take on the same jobs report:

    “This is basically good news. The labor force participation rate increased because 500,000 people entered the labor force, and the raw number of unemployed stayed about the same. The fact that people are returning to the labor force is pretty positive, as is the fact that jobs numbers for January and February were revised upward a bit. Jared Bernstein points out that wage growth has been fairly strong over the past year, which also counts as good news as long as the Fed doesn’t use this as an excuse to start tightening monetary policy.”

  9. C. Clavin says:


    And the Dow hit a record high today.

  10. tarylcabot says:

    …we’re living in the new normal

    That’s correct.

  11. KM says:

    we’re living in the new normal

    What does that even mean anyways (other then being buzzy)? Normal isn’t stoic; its the median between extremes, the common experience. Utterly subjective. Things change and the norm is ever shifting. You just don’t notice it ordinarily since it tends to be gradual and creeps up on you. Every day is living a new normal and has been for the majority of history. It’s all in the definition.

    That sounds suspiciously like “I miss the good old days” without trying to sound like the next line is “Get of my lawn!”

  12. Kari Q says:

    The response at Calculated Risk is always worth reading:

    Even though it took 6+ years to exceed the previous employment peak, this is actually better than most recoveries from a financial crisis….From Josh Lehner today: “Not good enough overall to avoid mass unemployment and lackluster growth, but in the context of historical financial crises, the U.S. employment picture is better than most.”

    But clearly most of the stimulus was effective, and I think more infrastructure investment (help with construction employment) – and more aid to states (keep more teachers, police and firefighters employed) – would have been very helpful.

    Luckily the track record of the Federal Reserve was better than for fiscal policy makers. Although Bernanke was slow to recognize what was happening – and he underestimated the severity of the crisis (remember “contained to subprime”?) – when he finally understood what was happening, the Fed was very effective.

  13. Stonetools says:

    Everything Calculated Risk says is pretty much libertarian heresy to Doug. His eyes will burn even reading that. Nonetheless, he is stating the consensus among the economists.

  14. charles austin says:

    Unemployment insurance rations increased to 6.6%!

  15. Tyrell says:

    Some areas are still feeling effects of losing major industries over the last few decades. One such industry is textiles, which was largely victim to the trade deals. Many towns have large, vacant buildings and sites, former businesses that once saw 3 worker shifts at least 5 days a week. Most areas in the textile belts have not been successful in attracting new industry. One new development has been the rise of smaller plants that use more technology to keep costs down and can compete with overseas companies. I see people paying $40 + for a sweatshirt jacket with a team or theme park design on it that is made ovetseas. That is probably $4 of materials and $2 of labor. Companies in this country should be able to compete with that.
    We need to bring the industries back. Buy American!

  16. anjin-san says:

    Your slot at Pajamas Media is waiting.

    Where he can post alongside intellectual giants like Eric Florack.