U.S. Economy Whittles Down Unemployment Rate in March
April 4, 2011 Timothy Prickett Morgan
There was good news from the U.S. Department of Labor on Friday, even if it wasn’t great news. According to the statistics compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for March, the American economy added 216,000 jobs in March, outpacing the population growth in the country and shaving the unemployment rate by one-tenth of a point to 8.8 percent.
That is a two-year low for the unemployment rate, but nowhere near the 4.5 percent structural unemployment rate that economists agree is as close to full employment that the modern U.S. economy can push down to. By the way, that was the official unemployment rate before we entered the Great Recession in December 2007. The number of unemployed people in March was 13.5 million, and that does not count the people who have stopped looking for work and who are no longer counted as members of the potential and current job pool.
In its monthly jobs report, which you can read here, the BLS says that private sector companies added 230,000 jobs in March, which is above the 200,000 minimum that is necessary to keep pace with population growth in the country. Local and state governments as well as Uncle Sam continue to shed workers as they face budget crunches. One more thing: the BLS revised its February figures and now believes that the U.S. economy added a few thousand more jobs in the prior month, too.
By industry, which is how the BLS thinks about the economy, healthcare companies added 37,000 jobs last month; this industry added 283,000 jobs in the prior 12 months. Companies engaged in the professional and business services sector added 78,000 jobs in March, and leisure and hospitality firms added 37,000 jobs. The manufacturing sector even did alright, adding 17,000 jobs, and mining companies boosted their payrolls by 14,000.
The BLS doesn’t track jobs by title, so we really can’t get a sense of how the IT sector is doing. But you can look at portions of the industry report and see how IT vendors are doing.
Among manufacturers, those making computer and electronic products added 1,900 net new jobs in March, with a pool that is above 1.12 million workers. Within that group, 1,000 jobs were added by computer and peripheral equipment manufacturers and 300 jobs added by communications equipment makers. Semiconductor and electronic component makers added 900 jobs. Those making electronic instruments shed 900 jobs.
The information sector, which includes all types of publishing (movies, TV, music, online, and paper) as well as telecom and data processing services, was essentially flat at 2.68 million workers. Telecom companies cut 6,100 jobs, to just under 870,000 workers, while data processing and hosting companies added 1,500 workers, to just under 240,000 people.
The professional and business services sector, which has 16.9 million employees, continued to be a bright spot in the jobs market. Within this sector, those engaged in computer systems design and related services added 1,700 jobs, according to the BLS. There are 1.47 million people in the country who do this work. Management and technical consulting services companies employ just over 1 million workers, and added 200 last month.