(April 4, 2008) – The BLS released The Employment Situation: March 2008 on Friday morning, announcing that the unemployment rate rose from 4.8% to 5.1% in March while non-farm payroll employment fell by 80K jobs. Payroll employment has declined by 232K over the past 3 months. Both average hourly earnings (+0.3%) and total hours worked (+0.2%) increased. The Household Survey showed a smaller job loss (22,000) in March.
The 80K job loss number was not a complete shock. The day before, we saw 407K initial unemployment claims–a big number. It is worth noting, however, that 51K of the jobs were lost in construction due to the housing crunch. And 42K jobs in March were lost as a result of the American Axle strike that shut down a number of auto plants.(The strike was on March 10; the initial claims number was for the week of March 12). Together, that accounts for -93K jobs in March.
Bottom line. Medium ugly but more consistent with modest positive growth than falling GDP. I still think we will see 1%-ish Q1 growth with a pickup after that.