Jobs report: Only 88,000 jobs added; Update: "This is a punch to the gut"

The new jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics came in well under even pessimistic expectations.  The US economy only added 88,000 jobs in March, while nearly a half-million people left the work force:

Nonfarm payroll employment edged up in March (+88,000), and the unemployment rate was little changed at 7.6 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Employment grew in professional and business services and in health care but declined in retail trade. …

The civilian labor force declined by 496,000 over the month, and the labor force participation rate decreased by 0.2 percentage point to 63.3 percent. The employment- population ratio, at 58.5 percent, changed little. (See table A-1.)

Needless to say, this is quite a stinker.  The jobs added fall far short of the 125K-150K needed just to keep up with population growth.  The exodus from the workforce is even worse.  The new civilian workforce participation rate of 63.3% is the lowest seen in almost 35 years, since the fall of 1978 — an era not exactly known for a robust American economy.

It didn’t take long for Obama apologists to blame the sequester:

On the other hand, Jim also notes this:

The BLS upwardly revised the previous two months’ jobs data.  January’s figure increased 29,000 to 148,000, and February increased by 32K to go to 268K. Otherwise, the only other “good” news was a drop in the U-6 measure of underemployment and unemployment combined.  That dropped to 13.8%, the lowest of Barack Obama’s presidency — but that measure, like the U-3 topline unemployment rate, depends on the size of the workforce as a denominator.  With almost a half-million people dropping out of the workforce, a decline in this figure means less than it otherwise would.

CNBC offered this strange assessment in its spot report:

Friday’s report fell short of economist expectations of 200,000 new jobs, though it did confirm some of the weakness in recent reports.

It “fell short”? I’d say, considering it didn’t even make it halfway to those expectations.  And yes, it did confirm “some of the weakness” in earlier numbers.  Not clear why that last clause requires a “though” to link those two concepts.

The Associated Press does a little better, noting that this is the worst report in nine months for job creation:

U.S. employers added just 88,000 jobs in March, the fewest in nine months and a sharp retreat after a period of strong hiring. The slowdown is a reminder that the job market’s path back to full health will be uneven.

The Labor Department said Friday that the unemployment rate dipped to 7.6 percent from 7.7 percent. While that is the lowest in four years, the rate fell only because more people stopped looking for work. The government counts people as unemployed only if they are actively looking for a job.

The unevenness — and the food-stamp economy — continues.

Update: Via Daniel Halper at the Weekly Standard, here’s the Austan Goolsbee clip Jim Pethokoukis referenced in his tweet:

Sequestration didn’t create this, and for that matter, neither did the payroll tax cut.  Consumer spending rose in January and consumer sentiment rose in February, remember?  We just have a lousy economy, strangled by regulation that keeps investors from putting capital into efforts that create jobs.

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