Job Gains Slowed in March


The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the Employment Situation for March 2018. In March, job gains slowed and the unemployment rate remained at 4.1%.

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 103,000 in March, slower than the 326,000 job growth in February. The February increase was revised from its original estimate of a 313,000 increase. Despite smaller monthly increase in March, the three-month average job growth was 202,000 in the first quarter of 2018, the highest reading since 2016. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate remained at the historical low level for the sixth consecutive month.

In March, the labor force participation rate changed little, at 62.9%, as the civilian labor force decreased by 158,000 and the number of persons not in the labor force increased 323,000 on a seasonally adjusted basis. The decrease in the number in the labor force reflected a 37,000 decrease in the number of persons employed and a 121,000 decrease in the number of persons unemployed over the month. The chart above indicates that the decline in the labor force participation rate also contributed to decrease in the unemployment rate following the recession.

Meanwhile, the labor force participation rate for people who aged between 25 and 54 was 82.1% in March, barely changed from last month’s rate (82.2%). As shown in Figure 3 below, although the labor force participation rate overall (for those above the age of 16), has been relatively flat since 2015, the rate for the working age (age 25-54) has been rising since September 2015.

Monthly employment data released by the BLS Establishment Survey indicates that construction decreased by 15,000 jobs in March, after the solid growth in February (+65,000).

Residential construction employment is now 2.79 million, broken down as 782,000 builders and 2 million residential specialty trade contractors. The 6-month moving average of job gains for residential construction is 15,617 a month. Over the last 12 months, home builders and remodelers have added 114,200 jobs on a net basis. Since the low point following the Great Recession, residential construction has gained 807,100 positions.

In March, the unemployment rate for construction workers rose to 5.9% on a seasonally adjusted basis, following a 5.7% in February. After reaching a peak rate of 22% in February 2010, the unemployment rate for the construction sector has been trending downwards and remains historically low.

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