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March Jobs Numbers Dampen Spring

April 4, 2013 - 6:00pm

The national jobs report could dampen the weekend for the White House.

While the economy has enjoyed long-awaited positive news on the housing market as of late, Fridays employments numbers failed to approach economists estimates that the U.S. economy would add 200,000 jobs. The number came in at less than half 88,000 according to numbers released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). It represents the smallest pickup in nine months and is sharply off Februarys revised gains of 268,000 jobs.

Even news that the unemployment rate ticked down to 7.6 percent turned sour upon the revelation that it fell due to the exit of half a million Americans from the job market.

According to the report, professional and business services and health care picked up workers but main street shed jobs. Broken out by major demographic groups, Americans aged 16 to 19 struggled with nearly a quarter (24.1 percent) unemployment. African-Americans and Hispanics came in at 13.3 percent and 9.2 percent jobless, respectively.

Still, the Obama administration looked to put an optimistic face on the spring decline.

While more work remains to be done, todays employment report provides further evidence that the U.S. economy is continuing to recover from the worst downturn since the Great Depression, the White House posted on its website from Alan Krueger, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. It is critical that we continue the policies that are helping to build an economy that creates jobs and works for the middle class as we dig our way out of the deep hole that was caused by the severe recession that began in December 2007.

The administration also used the jobs report as an opportunity to try to push the presidents agenda in the nations slowest moving environment.

Acting Secretary of Labor Seth D. Harris said, "Private employment has now increased for each of the last 37 months, with 6.5 million jobs created over that time. So while we have come a long way in just a few years' time, the economy is not yet clicking on all cylinders. We need to work together, Congress and the administration, to unleash its full potential. Americans are counting on Washington to be a catalyst for growth, not a roadblock. That means solving our fiscal challenges in a balanced way, with both responsible cuts and targeted investments to help workers get back on their feet.

Not all the news was bad. With the positive signs of growth in the housing market, it is no surprise that construction employment continued to expand, with a growth of 18,000 workers and 23,000 contractors. The BLS reported that since September, the construction industry has added 169,000 jobs to the American market.

But, that news was also tempered by a leading construction trade group.

The nearly steady expansion of construction payrolls since hitting bottom in January 2011 brought the industrys unemployment rate down to 14.7 percent last month, the lowest March rate since 2008, said Ken Simonson, chief economist of the Associated General Contractors of America. Unfortunately, the decline is less a result of the 370,000 construction hires than because more than a million and a half experienced workers have left the industry since its peak by taking other jobs, retiring or leaving the workforce. That makes shortages of skilled workers increasingly likely in high-demand crafts such as pipefitting, welding and some residential activities.

Anne Smith writes special to Sunshine State News.

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