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March Jobs Report: Better News




The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its March 2016 jobs report on Friday – boasting of a 215,000 increase in new jobs and (more importantly) a 0.3 percent uptick in hourly earnings. Analysts were expecting an uptick of 205,000 new jobs and a 0.2 percent increase in hourly earnings.

Good news, right?  Sure … to the extent you can believe the government’s data.

Anyway, the report (.pdf here) also revealed an increase in the labor participation rate – which climbed from 62.9 to 63 percent thanks to an estimated 400,000 new entrants into the nation’s work force.  The last time this critical indicator was at 63 percent or higher?  April of 2014.

So that’s good news …

One worrisome sign?  The ongoing decline in high-paying manufacturing jobs.  Last month saw the biggest one-month decline in manufacturing positions in six-and-a-half years … and the second straight month of manufacturing job losses.

Oh, and a whopping 93.4 million working-age Americans remain outside of the labor force.

Those represent some pretty ominous storm clouds … especially when viewed in the context of slumping first quarter economic growth and stagnant (now slipping) consumer comfort.

We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: We don’t want to be pessimists about America’s economic future.  Like Eddie Vedder sang, we wish we were messengers … and all the news was good.

But we have to go where the numbers lead us …

These numbers?  They’re not terrible … but they are not the sort of sustained employment and income growth our economy needs right now.