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A positive March 2014 employment report released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provided the new indications of the strength of the U.S. jobs market. The March labor figures improved slightly over February’s report, which showed mixed signs of improvement in the labor market. Although the U.S. overall unemployment rate remained stable at 6.7 percent, the IT unemployment remained well below that at 2.8 percent for March.
Picking up steam
The U.S. nonfarm payroll increased 192,000 jobs in March, greater than the 183,000 that was the monthly average from the previous twelve months.
More good news includes adjustments to the previous few months’ jobs numbers. The disappointing January and February numbers were revised upward, signaling the labor market and economy are still progressing to a recovery.
Just as Janet Yellen, the recently appointed chairperson of the Federal Reserve, expressed in her first public conference, the unemployment rate alone is not a comprehensive indicator of the health of the economy nor the labor market, and a diverse set of metrics should be examined for the best view.
Aside from the unemployment rate, the labor force participation rate is another significant indicator of economic health. It has increased 0.2 percentage points since February to about 63 percent. However, this is relatively unchanged over the last year. Since the recession, the labor force participation rate has been declining, signaling an increasingly discouraged workforce.
Discouraged workers are those who are not currently looking for work because they believe there are no jobs available for which they would qualify, and they are not accounted for in the unemployment rate. Although the labor force participation rate has remained relatively stable from a year ago, the number of discouraged workers has decreased since March of last year. The number of marginally attached workers decreased slightly since last March showing a more positive than negative sign that people are feeling better about their employment prospects.
IT sector growth
Certain sectors are performing better than others. The information technology sector has historically enjoyed unemployment numbers lower than the average for all occupations, and in March, the number of unemployed IT professionals fell further, signaling sector strength. The number of unemployed IT professionals has dropped a whopping 10 percent since last March and has garnered an extremely low 2.8 percent unemployment rate this month.
In summation, the March jobs report paints a portrait of stable recovery, although lacking the vitality one would want to see. The monthly report is only a snapshot of the employment situation, and one whose accuracy is susceptible to margins of error and seasonality. We hope to see continued expansion of the labor market and economy as a whole with a lower jobless rate and lower unemployed employees.