Stockholm (Ekonamik) – The US unemployment rate was estimated at 3.8% in March, according to data published by the US Bureau of Labor of Statistics. The value is unchanged from February. Yet, nonfarm payrolls increased substantially. The mixed signals from the labour market echo broader confusions in financial markets, according to BMO’s Chief Economist.
According to the report, “the number of unemployed persons was essentially unchanged at 6.2 million.” This lack of change was pervasive throughout the labour force. “Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men (3.6 percent), adult women (3.3 percent), teenagers (12.8 percent), Whites (3.4 percent), Blacks (6.7 percent), Asians (3.1 percent), and Hispanics (4.7 percent) showed little or no change in March. (See tables A-1, A-2, and A-3.)”
Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 196,000. The most notable contribution came from the healthcare industry, which alone added 49,000 jobs. On the downside, Retail trade lost 11,700 jobs. The increase was slightly above consensus estimates. “This was better than expected and marked a 102nd consecutive monthly increase, the longest on record. Though taking a step back from the six-month mean (207k) due to a slower economy, the pace of hiring remains healthy at this late stage of the cycle when worker shortages are a pressing issue,” commented Sal Guatieri, Senior Economist at BMO.
The average workweek for the surveyed workforce increased by 6 minutes, to 34.5 hours in March, cancelling the equivalent fall in February, a negligible amount. Meanwhile, average hourly earnings by a mere 4 cents to $27.70, following a 10-cent gain in February.
The mixed news from labour markets mirrors the broader confusion about the future in the market. “While the Treasury yield curve inversion and relentless rally in bonds revived recession chatter, almost all other financial markets simply refused to listen to that siren song,” says Douglas Porter, CFA, Chief Economist at BMO. “the combined market message appears to be that growth globally will keep grinding ahead, but it has taken a big step down from above potential in the past two years to below potential, probably for a few years.”
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