The labor market is continuing to climb in a positive direction with the addition of 103,000 new jobs in March, detailed a federal report Friday.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has been tracking steady employment growth in recent years with the latest monthly report showing more of the same. The employment gains followed an unusually sluggish economic recovery which still persists to a small degree. But the increase in new jobs continues to be a positive sign.
“Total nonfarm payroll employment edged up by 103,000 in March, and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 4.1 percent,” the BLS report detailed. “Employment increased in manufacturing, health care, and mining.”
Employment growth in earlier months tended to be closer to 200,000. The latest report, however, isn’t necessarily a problem given that the previous month showed that employment growth exceeded where it’s typically been by reaching 313,000. The unemployment rate has also stood as one of the more positive labor market indicators. Over the last several months it has remained at its lowest point since 2000.
“This job market is extremely robust,” Georgetown University Prof. Nicole Smith told InsideSources. “All in all it’s a pretty strong jobs market. There are concerns that still lag, like wages, which even last month was a little bit flat.”
The BLS report found that average wages increased by eight cents and now sit at $26.82 for the month of March. Workers typically see their wages rise when unemployment is lower because companies have to compete for a smaller pool of available workers. But that expected outcome has been slow to happen.
Smith notes that wages should have risen more by now given unemployment remaining low. She believes the pool of available workers might not be as tight as it seems with more people entering the workforce. The unemployment rate doesn’t track people who have fallen out of the labor force because of long-term joblessness.
“The unemployment rate still stayed at 4.1 percent because of the number of people returning to the job market,” Smith said. “They’re motivated and show elevated expectations. The labor force participation rate is up. More people are returning.”
The labor force participation rate tracks the number of employed and those actively seeking work as a percentage of the total population. It fell considerably since the economic downturn before bottoming out near the current rate of 62.9 percent. It did increase a bit last month.
The low participation rate can be partly blamed on a large population of retirees and student adults. But there are still plenty of working age adults out of the labor force. The employment-to-population ratio for prime-age adults has shown a lot of improvement but still hasn’t reached where it was a decade ago before the Great Recession.
Americans4Work President Tom Broadwater warns that while the labor market is trending is a positive direction the jobs report isn’t capturing the whole picture. He called the monthly job reports outdated and misleading because they don’t capture the full impact of different regions and segments of workers who are still struggling.
“The economy appears to be moving and growing,” Broadwater said. “The drivers and our economy, which would be the companies and industries that comprise it, the leaders of those companies appear to have an optimistic vision of growth and prosperity. That is a wonderful thing.”
Americans4Work is an advocacy group that supports minorities, veterans, and other groups of citizens in the workforce. Broadwater notes that black workers in certain regions have faced long-term joblessness because of there being a high concentration of illegal aliens. But those issues aren’t necessarily reflected in the jobs reports because they take a broader view of the labor market.
Former President Barack Obama oversaw the economic recovery throughout his presidency. The economy was already trending in a positive direction when he left office, but problems still remained. President Trump appealed to people who felt left behind in the recovery with an agenda focused on workers and the economy.
“As the U.S. continues its economic expansion, the future looks pretty rosy for most jobseekers, people entering (or reentering) the job market and anyone looking to change or move up in their career,” Adzuna jobs data insight expert Becky Barr said in a statement provided to InsideSources. “Let the good times roll.”
Adzuna is a company based in the United Kingdom that provides online job search resources. The company operates in 16 countries worldwide with operations expanding into the United States last year. The company has pointed to a few sectors that have shown consistently strong job growth – including healthcare, computer technologies, education, and sales.
Trump has seen a notable increase in economic optimism since he began implementing his agenda. But even supporters have expressed concern over some of his policies like trade and immigration. His proposed tariffs were met with backlash from the business community and a short-lived dip in the stock market, as reported by CNN.
“The remaining concern would be the impact of the possible tariffs on steel and retaliation from China,” Smith, who also serves as the chief economist for the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, said. “China has already spoken about where it could possibly retaliate with tariffs as well. And that has implications on everything from cars to soda.”
The Gross Domestic Product (GDP), a primary measure of economic growth, remained fairly strong throughout much of last year with two-quarters of above 3.0 percent growth. GDP for the final quarter of last year did slow down some with just 2.5 percent growth.