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Friday, April 04, 2014 – The March Jobs Report

The March Jobs Report
by Sinclair Noe
DOW – 159 = 16,412
SPX – 23 = 1865
NAS – 110 = 4127 (-2.6%)
10 YR YLD – .06 = 2.73%
OIL + .77 = 101.06
GOLD + 15.50 = 1303.30
SILV + .14 = 20.06
Today is a jobs report Friday. Let’s get geeky.
The Labor Department reported nonfarm payrolls increased by 192,000 jobs last month after rising by 197,000 in February (that’s revised from 175,000). The prior 2 months were revised to show 37,000 more jobs than previously estimated; the revisions indicate that the bad winter weather was not a huge problem for the labor market; it did have an effect but not huge, and we certainly shouldn’t hear any more weather related excuses. The unemployment rate was unchanged at 6.7% as more people were looking for jobs. The consensus estimate was 200,000 jobs, so the figures were a little below expectations.
Private employment rose to 116.09 million, finally moving beyond the previous high of 115.98 million recorded at the very start of the recession in January 2008.Total employment is just a little below the pre-financial crisis days; we still have about 437,000 fewer jobs than the peak in 2008, but private employment is now above the peak by 110,000 and at a new all-time high; the difference is that more than a half million government jobs have been cut during that time; also, the population and the labor force has grown over the past 6 years, so the unemployment rate remains fairly high. And the idea is not just to get back to where we were, but to get back to where we should be. Keep in mind, we have 15 million more people now than we did then.
The economy added 533 thousand jobs in Q1 this year compared to 618 thousand in Q1 2013; the bad weather is the excuse for the weaker performance. Still the unemployment rate has dropped from 8.2% in March 2012 to 6.7% now.
The Labor Force Participation Rate was increased in March to 63.2%. This is the percentage of the working age population in the labor force.  And while the participation rate is still low compared to the past 20 years, it is a positive sign that more people are looking for jobs, suggesting they were lured back into the job hunt as openings began to appear. Or possibly, more long-term unemployed were pushed back into the job market as benefits were cut. The number of long-term unemployed fell by 110,000, and over the past year, the ranks of the long-term jobless have dropped by 837,000; meanwhile, the ratio of the population reporting they had a job ticked up to 58.9% from 58.8%. Much has been made of the multiyear slide in the labor force participation rate since the financial crisis of 2008. In the last few months, however, the labor force participation rate has actually stabilized.
Anyway, about a half million people jumped back into the labor pool and about that many found jobs; if it were not for the increase in the size of the labor force, the unemployment rate would have fallen to 6.5%. It also means that the unemployment rate is unlikely to keep falling as sharply as it has in the last two years, because people who are again looking for work are counted as unemployed, while those who have given up and dropped out of the labor force are not.
There are 7.4 million people working part-time who would prefer to work full-time, or they are part time because their hours have been cut back, or they have given up looking for a job. There is a separate measure for them, known as the U-6 unemployment rate, which comes in at 12.7%; up from 12.6% in February, but down from 13.8% a year ago. The headline unemployment rate of 6.7% is known as U-3. The U-6 includes all those people in U-3 plus all the underutilized and discouraged workers. In healthier job markets, the gap between U-3 and U-6 is closer to 3% or 4%.
After months of declines in the part-time labor force, the BLS reported a spike of 414,000 new part-time workers in March, which was the largest monthly increase in nearly two years. This could just as well be an aberration, as it was a year ago, but the part-time picture in the American workforce is far from rosy. The financial crisis resulted in a spike in the number of part-time workers as a percentage of the labor force, and this has remained elevated ever since.
The increase in jobs was paced by gains in construction, retail and professional services. Government employment over all remained flat, with federal and state governments cutting 11,000 jobs even as local governments added 9,000 positions. Over the past 12 months, total federal employment has fallen by 85,000. That’s pretty much how it has gone throughout the grinding recovery; private hiring has been slow but steady, while austerity has led to government job cuts that have helped keep the recovery frustratingly slow.
The health care sector added 19,000 jobs. Business services added 57,000 jobs. Food services employment increased by 30,000, bringing the sector’s gain over the past year to 323,000. The manufacturing sector lost 1,000 jobs.
While average hourly earnings were basically flat, the length of the average workweek edged higher. The average work week for private employees edged up to 34.5 hours, offsetting a net decline over the prior three months; as a consequence of the bad weather, many people lost time on the job, but it was made up in March. Average weekly hours, at 34.5 per worker, aren’t far off of the 34.7 hours per worker recorded six years ago, but when you add up a fifth of an hour across more than 100 million workers, it makes a very big difference in the amount of time Americans actually spent on the job.
Average hourly earnings for private employees fell by 1 cent to $24.30 from a month earlier. Over the year, average hourly earnings have risen by 49 cents, or 2.1%. The average weekly wage rose to $838.55 from $833.83. The reason for this anomaly: a 12-minute increase in the average amount of time worked each week.  Conclusion: Bargaining power for workers is still subdued. But their services are more in demand.
The jobs report also provides details about who is benefiting from recovery and who is not. The recovery has been good for college educated workers and whites. It has been much more difficult for the long-term unemployed, young adults without a college education, and African Americans. Among adults 25 and older who have a bachelor’s degree the unemployment rate is just 3.4%, about half the over-all rate.
The unemployment rate for college graduates never went above five per cent in the downturn. At the other end of the educational spectrum, things were very different. For adults 25 and older without a high-school diploma, the jobless rate hit 15.6% in 2010. Last month, it stood at 9.6%.
Among white men aged 20 and over, the unemployment rate is now 5.3%; for African-American men over 20, it is 12.1%. The gap between white and black females is also very large, 5.3% of white women aged twenty and over are out of work (the same as the rate for white men), but 11% of black women in the same age group are jobless. Hispanics also have substantially higher rates of unemployment than whites, but the differences aren’t as large. Among Hispanic men aged twenty and over, the jobless rate in March was 6.9%; among Hispanic women aged twenty and over, the rate was 8.4%.
For teenagers between the ages of 16 and 19 who aren’t in school or college, the unemployment rate is 20.9%. That’s down from 23.3% a year ago. It’s still a very high figure, and, among minority teenagers, it’s even higher.
The stock market moved a little higher this morning following the jobs report. It wasn’t a bad jobs report that sank the market today. Most of the stories I read had a theme of not too hot, not too cold, a Goldilocks report. The Fed uses the jobs report to help determine the timing and pace of further cuts to its monthly bond-buying program. The central bank also looks to the unemployment rate as a factor in deciding when to raise its benchmark interest rate. This report did not sway the Fed one way or the other.
What went wrong on Wall Street? It’s always dangerous to lay an exact cause on any singular event, but the big damage today was in the Nasdaq and the tech and biotechs. There’s a little bit of nervousness about some of the high multiples in the biotech area and computer and Internet-related stocks. You’re having another wave of selling in that very high-momentum group. When you’re at record high levels, people start to get a little tentative going into weekends.

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