US Unemployment Rise In March Is Highest In Years

The US Unemployment situation took a turn for the worse through March with large rises across the economy. In its latest press release issued Friday, April 2, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the nation added 162,000 net jobs in March 2010. That was the largest increase in employment in three years dating back to March 2007. It was also well in excess of the long-term average employment gain (+100,000) month to month over the past 20 years.

Half of the latest jobs increase came in services employment. Within services, education and health (+45,000 month to month), leisure and hospitality (+22,000) and government (+39,000) provided the most new positions. There were only two sectors with further employment declines: financial activities (-21,000) and information services (-12,000).

However, there is still a long way to go for overall U.S. employment to return to its former peak level. The total number of jobs lost since December 2007 is a staggering 8.2 million, although this is down slightly from the 8.4 million job-loss figure at the labor market’s worst.

The unemployment rate has held steady at 9.7% for the past three months. The jobless rate has ranged between 9.7% and 10.1% since August of last year. Mixed in with the unemployment numbers is one sub-sector statistic that is particularly alarming for adult male workers. One out of every four construction workers is out of a job.

The vast majority of construction workers are men 25 years of age and older. The unemployment rate in construction has moved up to 24.9%. That is double the rate of any other sector. Manufacturing is next worst, at 12.6%, then comes professional and business services, at 12.4%.

The manufacturing labor force is also comprised mainly of male workers, but not to the same degree as construction. As an advance indicator of what to expect for construction, leading edge firms in architectural and engineering services are still mired at the bottom of their employment cycle. From peak to current trough, employment in architectural and engineering services has fallen by 170,000.

It will be a long slow process for the workforce to return to pre-recession employment levels. Nevertheless, the March data is a baby step in the right direction. More such progress in the months ahead will help to shore up consumer confidence and provide income growth to fuel a more widely-based economic recovery.



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