Expectations going into this morning pointed to job growth of about 190,000 jobs. The actual total wasn’t close.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this morning that the U.S. economy created just 88,000 jobs in March, the worst in the last 10 months. As is usually the case, there was a gap between the two major sectors – America’s private sector added 95,000 jobs last month, the public sector lost 7,000 jobs, though most of those totals were driven by Post Office layoffs.
The news is awful, but there was a silver lining: totals from January were revised up to 148,000 jobs (from 119,000), while February was revised up to 268,000 (from +236,000). The additional 61,000 jobs helped push the unemployment rate to 7.6%, its lowest point since December 2008.
But these encouraging tidbits are cold comfort, and can’t sugarcoat a deeply disappointing jobs report. The obvious question, of course, is whether (and to what extent) deep and arbitrary sequestration spending cuts caused this reversal of fortunes. At first blush, the circumstantial evidence certainly makes congressional Republicans look ridiculous – the job market was improving, then the GOP refused to compromise and imposed massive reductions in public investment despite Congressional Budget Office warnings that it would hurt hiring, then the GOP celebrated, then the steady progress in the job market stopped.
That said, it’s hard to say with certainty that the sequester caused job trouble in March. We can say with certainty, however, that with the job market running into trouble, the very last thing Americans need right now are more deep spending cuts.
Above you’ll find the chart I run on the first Friday of every month, showing monthly job losses since the start of the Great Recession. The image makes a distinction – red columns point to monthly job totals under the Bush administration, while blue columns point to job totals under the Obama administration.
Update: Here’s another chart, this one showing monthly job losses/gains in just the private sector since the start of the Great Recession.