Breaking: Unemployment stays at 9.7%

The Bureau of Labor Statistics published a good news/bad news report on employment today.  The unemployment rate remained high at 9.7% in March, the same figure as in February.  The economy added 162,000 jobs, with half coming in temporary or government work, as the Census Bureau began hiring its survey workers:

Nonfarm payroll employment increased by 162,000 in March, and the unemployment rate held at 9.7 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Temporary help services and health care continued to add jobs over the month. Employment in federal government also rose, reflecting the hiring of temporary workers for Census 2010. Employment continued to decline in financial activities and in information. …

Temporary help services added 40,000 jobs in March. Since September 2009, temporary help services employment has risen by 313,000.

Employment in health care continued to increase in March (27,000), with the largest gains occurring in ambulatory health care services (16,000) and in nursing and residential care facilities (9,000). …

Employment in federal government was up over the month, reflecting the hiring of 48,000 temporary workers for the decennial census.

The news wasn’t all good.  Marginally attached workers increased by 200,000 in March, and part-time by circumstance increased as well:

The number of persons working part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) increased to 9.1 million in March.  These individuals were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job. (See table A-8.)

About 2.3 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force in March, compared with 2.1 million a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.)  These individuals were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey. (See table A-16.)

In fact, the number of people working part-time for economic reasons rose to its highest level since December, 9.054 million, up almost 300,000 from February’s 8.791 million.

The number of unemployed rose again in March.  In February, the total unemployed was 23.818 million; in March, it rose to 23,840 (seasonally adjusted).  That’s still somewhat lower than December’s peak of 24.354 million, but it’s almost five million more than March 2009’s figure of 18.976 million, which was the first full month after passage of the stimulus bill Democrats pushed through in February 2009.  Furthermore, the average duration of unemployment increased again to 31.2 weeks, the highest it’s been in months.

It’s not a bad jobs report, but it’s not terribly good, either.

Update: Tommy Christopher tweaks me for my pessimistic analysis:

Here’s how the jobs report is playing out around the blogosphere. Over at Hot Air, Ed Morrissey finds the silver lining with the headline “Breaking: Unemployment stays at 9.7%.” …

This is clever, lumping temporary and government jobs together. It’s a bit like saying that Hank and Tommie Aaron hit 756 home runs, and I doubt many unemployed Americans would turn their noses up at a government job right now.

Well, the problem is that Hank Aaron had a job for longer than a year, which is a lot more than these Census workers can claim.  The “government jobs” are also temporary.  It’s not growth, nor does it lead to growth. It’s simply temporary overhead, more cost to the taxpayers.

Like I said, this is a mixed bag, with some good news outweighed by the bad, including the increase in the unemployed and the average duration of unemployment.  The Census Bureau jobs are not the good news here.

Jazz Shaw Jun 22, 2021 6:01 PM ET