"My Favorite Friday"

My Favorite Friday

I used to dread writing this piece on the first Friday of every month, the day when the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases its Employment Situation report for the prior month. That’s because the labor market is a lagging indicator, and its performance during the first year of the recovery was anything but good news. Should I (a) hit it head on, highlighting whatever I could find in the way of a silver lining, or (b) ignore it and focus on something else, which seemed like complimenting the landscaping as the house was on fire?

But now the labor market is joining the broader recovery, making this my favorite Friday. Employers added 216,000 net new payroll jobs in March comprised of 230,000 private sector jobs and a loss of 14,000 government jobs. Gains were widespread, led by professional and business services (+78,000), education and health services (+45,000), leisure and hospitality (+37.000), trade, transportation and utilities (+32,000), retail trade (17,700) and manufacturing (17,000). Besides government, weakness persists in construction, transportation and warehousing, and information. The unemployment rate ticked slightly lower to 8.8 percent from 8.9 percent in February, driven by a decline of 131,000 in the number of unemployed. The civilian labor force rose by 160,000 as discouraged jobseekers re-started their searches. There remains a lot of slack in the labor market, and high energy prices could affect the pace of recovery later this year, but it is getting better.