So, About That Job Market ...

The latest American employment figures, released Friday in the U.S. jobs report, indicate a slowdown in hiring after a year of better growth — and no progress on unemployment, which remained static at five percent. The March report failed economists' expectations, although analysts did not predict any improvement on the unemployment numbers. The figures were widely received as indicative of a spring slump, with few workers seeing any real benefits from the country's supposed economic recovery.

Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had predicted a non-farm payroll rise of 248,000 jobs. For the previous 12 months, reports had shown consecutive increases of 200,000 jobs. Instead, only 126,000 jobs were added, while wages rose 0.3 percent for private sector workers (a 0.2 percent improvement on February’s increase). The economists predicated that the jobless rate would remain the same, at five and a half percent — meaning some 8.6 million Americans remain unemployed.

The report also included a revision of previous jobs data. January was reduced from 239,000 to 201,000 jobs added, while February was down to 264,000 from 295,000. “With these revisions, employment gains in January and February combined were 69,000 less than previously reported. Over the past three months, job gains have averaged 197,000 per month,” the report stated. Last year was the best year for job growth since 1999, according to the Guardian.

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Economists from PNC stated that despite the slowdown, the labor market was “in good shape and getting better.” Their statement read, in part:

This is well above what is needed to keep up with normal growth in the labor force… Solid job growth this year should translate to higher wage gains as firms need to raise pay to attract workers; this can be seen in the recent announcements from Walmart and Target that they will be raising workers wages.

The Federal Reserve had previously acknowledged a recent slowdown, but did not seem to think the situation was a matter of grave concern. “We do see considerable underlying strength in the U.S. economy, “ Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen said in mid-March, “and in spite of what looks like a weaker first quarter, we are projecting good performance for the economy.”

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The New York Times was less sanguine. “This latest jobs report underscores what has been a persistent theme: that in the recovery, many working Americans have received only scant benefits from the upswing,” the newspaper’s Patricia Cohen wrote. President Barack Obama, too, was quick to recognize the figures’ implications. In a speech from Louisville, Kentucky, the President was quick to praise the country's job creation: 12 million hires over the last five years. But he also said:

Our economy has grown since the crisis, but if you look at what’s happened to middle-class folks, their wages, their incomes, just haven’t gone up that much. A lot of folks are still struggling to get by.
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Publications across the country have taken slightly different approaches to the jobs data — discrepancies that are reflected in their headlines. The New York Times went fairly balanced, with: “U.S. Economy Gained 126,000 Jobs in March, Signaling a Slowdown in Hiring.” A level-headed Washington Post headline read, “Hiring slowed in March, with 126K jobs added, falling below analysts’ expectations.” The Guardian kept things relatively upbeat, whilst acknowledging some stagnation: “US economy adds 126,000 jobs in March as unemployment sticks at 5.5 percent.”

The Wall Street Journal went with a very similar header, while adding a miserable sub-head: “Monthly gain is lowest since December 2013 as first quarter ends with a stumble.” While the Financial Times went for the jugular, with an even more dire assessment: “US companies scale back sharply on hiring: Dollar falls as jobs data add to evidence that economy has lost momentum.”

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Fox News has other more pressing issues to engage with (“US WIMP OUT ON IRAN DEAL?” All Caps is a classy touch) but they do squeeze in a delightful header on the jobs report. “Big March Miss,” they announce. “U.S. Created Just 126,000 Jobs.” Newsmax took a similar tone. But even liberal bastion The Nation dwelled on the unsatisfying numbers. “June Jobs Report: The Slump Is Real,” they wrote.

And so, indeed, it is. “We’ve got momentum, but that momentum can stall,” Obama said Friday, “because the economies in Europe are weak. The economies in Asia are weak. The dollar is becoming stronger. … We’ve got to stay humming.”

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