Economic Snapshot: Unemployment continues to stagnate

While unemployment numbers are low and the percentage is close to its rate pre-recession, it has seen little movement across categories.

Employment situation

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 215,000 in March and the unemployment rate was little changed at 5.0 percent. Both measures have shown little movement since August 2015. Employment increased in retail trade, construction and healthcare, and job losses occurred in manufacturing and mining.

The number of long-term unemployed was essentially unchanged at 2.2 million in March and has shown little movement since June 2015. In March, these individuals accounted for 27.6 percent of the unemployed. The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons was unchanged in March at 6.1 million and has shown little movement since November 2015.

In March, 1.7 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force, down by 335,000 from the previous year. Among the marginally attached, there were 585,000 discouraged workers in March, down by 153,000 from a year earlier.


The number of job openings was little changed at 5.4 million on the last business day of February and the job openings rate was 3.7 percent. Job openings are up from 5.1 million in February 2015.

Hires increased to 5.4 million in February, the highest level since November 2006, and the hires rate was 3.8 percent. Hires are up from 5.0 million in February 2015.

Total separations were at 5.1 million in February, little changed from January, and the separations rate was 3.5 percent. Total separations are up from 4.7 million in February 2015. Among separations, the number of quits was little changed in February at 3.0 million and the quits rate was 2.1 percent.

ISM manufacturing index

The ISM Manufacturing Index registered 51.8 percent in March, up 2.3 percentage points from February. Economic activity in the manufacturing sector expanded in March for the first time in six months and the overall economy grew for the 82nd consecutive month.

The New Orders Index rose 6.8 percentage points to 58.3 percent and the Production Index increased 2.5 percentage points to 55.3 percent. The Employment Index decreased 0.4 percentage points to 48.1 in March.

Inventories of raw materials registered 47.0 percent, an increase of 2.0 percentage points. The Prices Index jumped 13 percentage points to 51.5 in March, indicating higher raw materials prices for the first time since October 2014.

Twelve of the 18 manufacturing industries grew in March and five industries reported contraction.

ISM non-manufacturing index

The ISM Non-Manufacturing Index rose 1.1 percentage points to 54.5 percent in March. This represents continued growth in the non-manufacturing sector at a slightly faster rate. Economic activity in the non-manufacturing sector grew for the 74th consecutive month in March.

The Business Activity Index rose 2.0 percentage points to 59.8 percent, reflecting growth for the 80th consecutive month, with a faster rate in March. The New Orders Index increased 1.2 percentage points to 56.7 percent.

The Employment Index edged up 0.6 percentage points to 50.3 percent indicating growth after a month of contraction. The Prices Index jumped 3.6 percentage points to 49.1 percent, indicating prices decreased in March for the fifth time in the past seven months.

Twelve of the 14 non-manufacturing industries reported growth in March and two reported contraction; among those contracting are Arts, Entertainment & Recreation, and Transportation & Warehousing.

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