Economy

162,000 Jobs Added In March; Jobless Rate Holds At 9.7%

"Nonfarm payroll employment increased by 162,000 in March, and the unemployment rate held at 9.7%," the Bureau of Labor Statistics just reported.

As we said earlier, the job growth was likely skewed by some temporary factors — most notably hiring by the Census Bureau. And indeed, according to BLS: "Employment in federal government was up over the month, reflecting the hiring of 48,000 temporary workers for the decennial census."

We'll pass along more from the report shortly, so be sure to hit your "refresh" button.

And Planet Money follows the economic news here.

Update at 11:10 a.m. ET: Christina Romer, chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, just spoke with NPR's Robert Siegel about the report and the current state of the economy.

Among the things she said:

— Nine point seven percent is "a terrible number," but the job market is turning in the right direction.

— "This has been a horrible recession" that has hit the labor market hardest:

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— Despite the hopeful signs, it's still likely the jobless rate will be above 9% at year's end because jobs growth has to accelerate to well above 100,000 a month to start significantly cutting into unemployment:

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Much more from Robert's conversation with Romer will be on today's All Things Considered. Click here to find an NPR station that broadcasts or streams the show. After the interview is broadcast, the as-aired version of their conversation will be posted here.

Update at 10:40 a.m. ET. More from the GOP, this time a statement from House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio. He says, in part:

"Today's private-sector job gains are encouraging but not nearly what President Obama promised when he signed the trillion-dollar 'stimulus' into law last year with promises it would keep unemployment below 8% and create jobs 'immediately.' Our economy has lost more than three million jobs since then and unemployment remains near 10%."

Update at 10:15 a.m. ET: The Republican National Committee is making the case that the numbers aren't so great and that the new health care law will impose "job-killing costs" on employers.

Update at 9:45 a.m. ET. The White House has released a statement from Christina Romer, chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, who says in part that:

"At the same time that we welcome today's encouraging labor market news, it is obvious that the American labor market remains severely distressed. More than eight million Americans have lost their jobs since the start of the recession in December 2007. It will take sustained, robust employment growth to bring the unemployment rate down. Further targeted actions to spur private sector job creation are critically needed to ensure a more rapid, widespread recovery.

"While this is the most positive jobs report we have had in three years, there will likely be bumps in the road ahead. The monthly employment and unemployment numbers are volatile and subject to substantial revision. Therefore, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report, positive or negative. It is essential that we continue our efforts to move in the right direction and generate steady, strong job gains."

Update at 9 a.m. ET. Hugh Johnson, who pours over economic and financial data for his Johnson Illington Advisors in Albany, N.Y., tells NPR's Dave Mattingly that about 114,000 jobs — "a real solid number" — were added if you factor out the temporary Census hiring. "It's very encouraging," he adds:

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Update at 8:40 a.m. ET:

— BLS says "private" employment rose by a net 123,000 jobs. Of those: 40,000 were temporary positions; 37,000 were in "health care and social assistance"; 17,000 were in manufacturing; and 15,000 were in construction.

— Average weekly hours worked (34) and hourly earnings ($22.47) were almost unchanged.

— The White House is already pointing to the news. Press secretary Robert Gibbs "tweeted" about the Associated Press' headline that says "employers added most jobs in 3 years."

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