March Jobs Report: Unemployment Rate at 8.8%, Lowest In 2 Years
The latest jobs report released Friday has some good news for the economy, with unemployment dropping to its lowest figure in two years as more jobs were added in the month of March. According to the Labor Department, the unemployment rate dropped to 8.8 percent, while payrolls grew by 216,000.
The new numbers appear to indicate the job market is picking up. The 216,000 jobs added by the economy last month were well above figure economists surveyed by CNNMoney had forecast, which predicted 180,000 jobs added in March. A Bloomberg survey of economists had that figure slightly higher, with a median estimate of 190,000 jobs projected. The figure also represented an increase over the February jobs report, when 194,000 jobs were added.
Since November, the unemployment rate has dropped a full percentage point, the biggest four-month drop since 1984.
"The unemployment rate has broken through the sound barrier and is continuing to decline," said Sung Won Sohn, economics professor at Cal State Channel Islands. "The recovery in employment is here to stay."
"It's strong across the board," said Tig Gilliam, president of the North American unit of Adecco, a job placement firm. "Is it as fast as we'd all want? Probably not, but it's moving in the right direction and it continues to accelerate."
Among the other things the report showed:
- Private employers drove nearly all gains, adding 230,000 jobs in March.
- Among the job sectors that increased their payrolls last month included retailers, factories, education, health care and other professional and financial services.
- The number of discouraged job seekers--those looking for work who want a job, but have actively stopped looking--was also slightly down.
- the number of workers who lost their jobs dropped by 125,000, which represents the lowest level in two years.
Friday's figures also gave congressional Democrats and Republicans a fresh opportunity to weigh in on President Obama's economic policies, with each party presenting its own take on the latest jobs report.
"This sign of jobs growth shows the president's economic plan is starting to work," said Sen. Charles Schumer, Democrat from New York. "We should stick with it, and quickly reach a budget deal to avert a government shutdown that would risk these fragile gains."
"Even with this good news, far too many people remain out of work and we need to continue our efforts in Washington to foster pro-growth policies that will help businesses small and large to innovate and expand," said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
President Obama addressed the new figures at an event Friday in Maryland.
"Nearly two years after one of the worst recessions we've ever seen, our economy is showing signs of real strength," Obama said. "Today we learned that we added 230,000 private sector jobs last month. That makes 1.8 million private sector jobs created in the last 13 months. And the unemployment rate has now fallen a full point in the last four months. The last time that happened was the recovery of 1984."