Additions to nonfarm payroll employment were disappointing this month but the unemployment rate continues to improve year-over-year.It's worth keeping in mind that wage growth imcreased this month, which could be a good sign for the coming year.
Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 126,000 in March and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 5.5 percent. This was significantly lower than economists’ estimates of 245,000 and ended a streak of monthly job gains above 200,000.
In March, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased by 7 cents to $24.86. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have risen by 2.1 percent.
The number of unemployed persons was little changed at 8.6 million. Over the year, the unemployment rate and the number of unemployed persons decreased by 1.1 percentage points and 1.8 million, respectively.
The number of long-term unemployed was little changed at 2.6 million in March and these individuals accounted for 29.8 percent of the unemployed. Over the past 12 months, the number of long-term unemployed has declined by 1.1 million. The number of persons employed part-time for economic reasons was little changed in March at 6.7 million.
There were 2.1 million persons marginally attached to the labor force in March, little changed from the previous year. Among the marginally attached, there were 738,000 discouraged workers, little changed from March 2014.
There were 5.1 million job openings on the last business day of February, which is little changed from 5.0 million in January but is the highest level of job openings since January 2001. The job openings rate for February was 3.5 percent.
The number of job openings increased over the 12 months ending in February for total nonfarm, private and government and in all four regions of the country.
There were 4.9 million hires in February and the hires rate was 3.5 percent. Over the 12 months ending in February, the number of hires was little changed for total nonfarm, private and government. The number of hires increased in the Northeast and decreased in the South.
There were 4.7 million separations in February at a rate of 3.3 percent. Within separations, there were 2.7 million quits. The number of quits increased over the 12 months ending in February for total nonfarm and private and increased in the Midwest and West regions.
The ISM non-manufacturing index registered at 56.5 in March, 0.4 percentage points lower than February. Economic activity grew in the non-manufacturing sector for the 62nd consecutive month.
The Business Activity Index registered at 57.5 percent, 1.9 percentage points lower than the February reading of 59.4. This reflects growth for the 68th consecutive month, albeit at a slower rate. The New Orders Index registered at 57.8, 1.1 percentage points higher than the reading of 56.7 in February.
The Employment Index increased 0.2 percentage points to 56.6 in March and indicates 13 months of consecutive job growth. The Prices Index increased 2.7 percentage points to 52.4, indicating prices increased in March after three consecutive months of decreases.
Fourteen of the 18 non-manufacturing industries reported growth in March and four industries reported contraction. The four industries reporting contraction are: Mining; Educational Services; Other Services; and Utilities.