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Near-stagnation March jobs report leaves unemployment rate unchanged

Good housing news in construction jobs, young-adult employment

Employers added 192,000 jobs in March, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, missing expectations with near-stagnation level job creation.  

March’s job creation total was also below February’s level, which was blamed on cold weather. Job creation of 150,000 per month is needed just to keep pace with job growth, which means this pace of job creation is little more than treading water.

The labor force participation rate rose modestly 0.2% to 63.2%, while the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 6.7%.

In March, the number of unemployed persons was essentially unchanged at 10.5 million, unchanged since December 2013. 

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate for adult women increased to 6.2% in March, and the rate for adult men decreased to 6.2%. The rates for teenagers (20.9%), whites (5.8%), blacks (12.4%), and Hispanics (7.9%) showed little or no change. The jobless rate for Asians was 5.4%.

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more), at 3.7 million, changed little in March.

In March, 2.2 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force, little changed from a year earlier. These individuals were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months.

Jed Kolko, economist at Trulia(TRLA) said two key indicators to take from the month’s numbers were in residential construction employment and the youn-adult job numbers.

Residential construction employment, including residential specialty trade contractors, increased by 9,100 in March versus one month earlier, and by 30,800 versus three months earlier,” Kolko said. “That’s a solid improvement, though not quite the burst we saw last spring. But residential construction employment remains 35% below its peak during the housing bubble, even though overall employment is just 0.3% below its pre-recession peak.

“Construction employment is still higher than normal relative to the level of construction activity,” he said. Now there are 3.1 construction jobs per unit under construction in February 2014, which is getting closer to the pre-bubble level of 2.6 but still elevated. A lower ratio suggests a tighter labor market.”

He also said the young-adult job recovery is proceeding which could help household formation, key for housing.

“(This) is good news for parents who want their basement back. Employment among 25-34 year-olds, the prime age group for housing demand, was at 75.9% in March, up from 75.4% one year ago and holding near a 5-year high,” Kolko said. “But young-adult employment still isn’t halfway back to normal: before the bubble, their employment-population ratio hovered in the 78-80% range. Having a job matters for housing. Just 12% of employed 25-34 year-olds live with their parents, versus 20% of 25-34 year-olds without jobs.”


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