The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released the Employment Situation report for March today. Payrolls increased by 120 thousand in March, an unexpected deceleration after strong gains in January and February that averaged 258 thousand. Some of the slowdown could be payback for a warm weather surge that boosted January and February. Even with the deceleration the first quarter average of 212 thousand is an improvement over the 164 thousand average in the fourth quarter, but a slightly shorter average workweek suggests a strong bounce back in April is not a given.
The unemployment rate edged down to 8.2 from 8.3 percent, based on a decline in the labor force (164 thousand), rather than strong employment growth.
Overall, today’s report is disappointing. A quick return to the strong growth in payrolls and the labor force in recent months would be welcome, but is not a foregone conclusion.