The nation's unemployment rate edged down to 8.2 percent in March from 8.3 percent in February, but only 120,000 jobs were added to private and public payrolls the Bureau of Labor Statistics said this morning in a report that was less positive about the labor market's health than economists had expected.
The changes in payroll employment over the past two years.
Prior to the news, forecasters had predicted BLS would say about 200,000 jobs were added to payrolls last month.
And while the March figure could be revised upward in coming months, as February's increase was, the relatively weak job growth was a reminder that the U.S. economy is still running at a pace well below the more rapid rates of earlier decades.
We'll be updating with more from the report and reactions to it, so hit your "refresh" button to make sure you're seeing our latest updates. Planet Money is gathering Twitter reactions from economists and journalists here.
Update at 10:35 a.m. ET. News On Jobs Is "Welcome," Obama Says, But There's "More Work To Do":
At the White House a moment ago, President Obama called the 120,000-increase in payrolls "welcome" news. But, he added, it is "clear to every American there will still be ups and downs along the way and that we've got a lot more work to do."
Update at 10:05 a.m. ET. More On The Reason Growth Was Weaker Than Expected:
Along with the likelihood that employers may be pausing to see how the economy's doing, there's evidence that some of the job gains in earlier months were doe to "the unseasonably warm weather, so the latest slowdown could have been in part due to a kind of payback for the inflated payrolls in the winter," the Los Angeles Times writes.
Update at 9:54 a.m. ET. White House Points At Republicans.
Earlier, as we reported, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, cited what he said are President Obama's "failed economic policies" as the leading cause for weak job growth.
According to Reuters, White House economic adviser Gene Sperling pointed back at Republicans, saying this morning that "partisanship ... has blocked us from having a stronger job market."
Update at 9:50 a.m. ET. "The Economy Is Continuing To Recover," White House Says.
"There is more work to be done, but today's employment report provides further evidence that the economy is continuing to recover from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression," writes alan Krueger, chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers, on the White House blog.
He makes the case that "is critical that we continue to make smart investments that strengthen our economy and lay a foundation for long-term middle class job growth so we can continue to dig our way out of the deep hole that was caused by the severe recession that began at the end of 2007."
Update at 9:20 a.m. ET. Boehner Points To Obama's "Failed Economic Policies."
In a statement from his office, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, says in part that:
"Today's report shows that families and small businesses are still struggling to get by because of President Obama's failed economic policies. Unemployment is still far too high, paychecks are shrinking, gas prices are rising faster than ever, and our debt now exceeds the size of our entire economy. Unfortunately, the president is refusing to get serious about addressing our fiscal and economic challenges. ... We invite the president and his fellow Democrats who run Washington to join us in acting on common ground that would help the private sector put people back to work."
Update at 9:07 a.m. ET. Early Headlines:
— "Job Growth Loses Steam." (The Wall Street Journal)
— "Employers Added 120,000 Jobs In March, Fewest In Five Months." (Bloomberg)
— "U.S. Jobs Growth Slows." (The Financial Times)
Update at 8:57 a.m. ET. Since The Recession:
The U.S. economy officially entered its last recession in December 2007 and officially emerged from that downturn in June 2009. The jobless rate hit its recent peak of 10 percent in October 2009. The number of jobs on public and private payrolls peaked at 138,023,000 in January 2008, declined to a low of 129,244,000 in February 2010 — a loss of 8.8 million jobs. About 3.6 million jobs have been added since that low point.
Update at 8:55 a.m. ET. Year-Over-Year Comparisons:
In the past year, BLS data show, private and public payrolls have grown by 1.9 million positions. That averages to about 158,250 additional jobs each month. The jobless rate in March 2011 was 8.9 percent.
Update at 8:50 a.m. ET. A Pause?
It's worth noting that on Morning Edition, NPR's John Ydstie reported that economists think job growth is going to slow a bit in coming months in part because employers have now refilled many of the positions they cut after the financial crisis of 2008 and will pause to see how the economy's doing before ramping up hiring again. That process may have begun in March.
Update at 8:47 a.m. ET. February Growth Revised Upward:
While the March increase in payroll employment was well below economists' forecasts, BLS did revise upward its estimate of job growth in February. It initially said about 227,000 jobs were added to payrolls that month. Now, it says about 240,000 jobs were added.
Update at 8:44 a.m. ET. Why The Rate Stayed Down Despite Weak Job Growth:
The Associated Press writes that the jobless rate declined "because fewer people searched for jobs. The official unemployment count only includes those seeking work." Indeed, the size of the labor force declined by 164,000 people, to 154.7 million, as the labor "participation rate" dipped to 63.8 percent from 63.9 percent in February (and 64.2 percent in March 2011).
Update at 8:40 a.m. ET. Well Below Expectations:
As we reported earlier, economists thought BLS would say that about 200,000 jobs were added to payrolls last month.