The Labor Department reported today that the economy added 162,000 jobs in March, including 17,000 manufacturing jobs, while the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.7 percent. NAM Chief Economist Dave Huether issued the following comments:
The gain of 17,000 manufacturing jobs in March marks the third consecutive monthly increase for this sector. While manufacturers have not increased payrolls in three successive months in nearly three years, most of the increase was concentrated in two industries, fabricated metals and machinery, which together increased employment by 15,000 jobs. With capital goods exports rising at an annual rate of 15 percent over the last six months, much of the rise in manufacturing jobs is likely being driven by export growth and does not indicate an across-the-board manufacturing recovery.
While the overall employment gains last month were not notably strong, the fact that 10 of the 12 major private sectors increased payrolls in March is the first meaningful sign that the overall labor market is starting to improve on a broad basis. Still, while the March gain of 162,000 jobs across the economy was the biggest monthly gain in three years, more than half of the increase was in temporary employment, driven largely by the hiring of 48,000 workers to conduct the 2010 Census.
Today’s report also includes some somber news. The share of unemployed workers out of work for at least half a year rose to a record 44.1 percent, up from about a quarter a year ago. In addition, there was essentially no change in hourly earnings or weekly hours worked from February. Together, this signals that underlying labor market conditions remain very weak.
Looking ahead, exports are likely to continue to drive job creation in the manufacturing sector until domestic demand picks up. Overall, the pace of job creation across-the-board is a long way off from restoring the economy to good health.