T he BLS Employment Situation report showed an encouraging 192,000 new jobs created in March, reinforcing the notion that weak employment figures in December and January were the transitory result of an unusually harsh winter.
The new job figures for January and February were revised upward by 15,000 and 22,000, respectively, which also puts those months in a less gloomy light. The March results suggest that the US labor market is returning to the modest growth levels seen in 2013.
Private Employment Exceeds Pre-Recession Levels
In March 2014 employment levels in the private sector finally exceeded the record set in January 2008. However, total nonfarm employment remains more than 400,000 below pre-recession levels due to a net loss of a half million government jobs over the past six years. During the same period, the US working-age population has grown by more than 14 million, which explains the slow decline in unemployment.
Participation Rate Rises
Improving job prospects continue to draw people back into the workforce. The participation rate rose slightly to 63.2 percent. The Household Survey, which is broader but less precise than the survey of businesses, reported that 476,000 more people were working in March compared to February. This figure has a broader definition of what constitutes employment, and includes people describing themselves as self-employed. Both surveys agree that more people are working, and that more people are seeking work.
Yet Another Record Month for Temp Labor
Temp Agency employment continued to climb in March, setting a new record of 2.84 million jobs. Each month since August 2013 has seen a new record level of temp employment. Temp employment also achieved a new record as a percentage of nonfarm employment, at 2.06%.
The March revisions to temporary labor employment estimates were all upward:
Increasing business utilization of temporary labor has been a consistent feature of the post-recession labor market. The agency temp component of the nonfarm workforce continues to expand beyond 2%. This trend is likely to continue as contingent labor grows in importance as part of the future total workforce solution.