The U.S. economy added 192,000 jobs in March, and the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 6.7 percent.
The report marked another month of steady, if underpowered growth: The number of new jobs was slightly below analysts’ expectations, but there were some incremental signs of continued healing in the labor market as well.
One lingering fear is that the slow, protracted recovery will make it even harder to get back to normal: Jobs won’t keep up with population growth, and discouraged jobless workers will give up looking for work altogether. But on those two counts, things were headed in the right direction in March.
The ratio of those employed to the total working-age population ticked up to 58.9—the highest ratio in more than four years, though still far from pre-recession highs. And the percentage of people participating in the labor force—either because they’re employed or are looking for jobs—increased slightly to 63.2 percent, reversing a seven-month slump.
Even before the recent recession, there were long-standing trends pushing people out of the workforce, given the aging population and rising college enrollment. The worry now is that the weak recovery will accelerate that trend, leaving a smaller proportion of workers to drive the economy and generate tax revenue to support entitlement programs.
So March’s jobs numbers, if underwhelming, show we continue to be headed in the right direction. But the nature of the new jobs should also raise concerns about the kind of jobs recovery we’re experiencing. A significant proportion of new jobs were in low-paying, unstable fields: 15 percent of March’s new jobs were temp jobs in professional and businesses services, and 16 percent were in food services.