March’s jobs figures continued a more-of-the-same trend, with increasing numbers of Americans flowing back into the labor force after a long drought. The increase in labor force participation was actually enough to push the unemployment rate up to 5 percent from 4.9 percent, a counterintuitively encouraging sign for an economy that needs more adults participating in the workforce.
Here are five charts that show how the labor market fared last month.
Employers added 215,000 workers to payrolls in March, edging out the median estimate of 210,000 from economists surveyed by Bloomberg. That number continues a brisk pace of job creation, which has averaged 209,000 over the past three months.
Average hourly wages for most employees ticked up 0.3 percent on a month-over-month basis and 2.3 percent over the same time last year. Though the monthly increase is encouraging, the year-over-year gains dipped from the rise
Wage gains have been an enduring sore spot in the otherwise booming labor market, keeping consistently below the historical 20-year average of 3 percent since the end of the recession. Policymakers at the Federal Reserve are keen to see wage growth pick up before normalizing benchmark interest rates further.
Labor Force Participation
The share of the population working — or trying to work — rose for the fourth month in a row, the first time that has happened since 1992. After a long decline, labor force participation has only recently begun to recover as workers who had been resigned to the sidelines return to employment.
A more targeted measure that excludes retirement-age workers also showed positive signs. The prime-age employment-to-population ratio, measuring the employment of adults ages 25 to 54 years old, lifted to 78 percent, continuing five months of consistent growth in the closely watched metric.
Jobs By Industry
Hospitals, hotels and restaurants accounted for a large share of the jobs added in March, with the leisure and hospitality, transportation and utilities, and health and construction sectors out front. But the manufacturing sector lost 29,000 jobs in March, reflecting difficulties stemming from a strong dollar, which hurts export demand.
The mining and logging sector, which includes the oil and gas industries, continued its long decline, as low oil prices continued to weigh on drillers and refiners.