The Washington Post's Neil Irwin noted this morning that when it comes to the monthly jobs report, "We're due for a disappointing number." He was right -- though forecasts projected about 200,000 new jobs in March, the new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics fell short of expectations.
The U.S. economy added 120,000 jobs last month, while the overall unemployment rate dipped slightly to 8.2%. For the first time in a very long while, public-sector layoffs were less of a drag on the overall totals: the private sector added 121,000 jobs in March, while government lost only 1,000.
By any measure, today's disappointing totals are a real setback. While it's never wise to overreact to one report, March's job totals were the weakest since October, and reverse a three-month trend in which over 200,000 jobs were being created each month. In terms of revisions, January's totals were revised down a little, while February's were revised up a little.
While 120,000 new jobs would have been considered great in, say, late 2009, it's not even close to good enough now. This is a figure that barely keeps up with population growth, and is roughly half of what the economy should be producing as part of a larger recovery. Ideally, policymakers would see data like this and take steps to boost job creation, but given Republican efforts in Congress, that's no longer an option.
The overall economy has now added over 1.9 million jobs over the last year, and nearly 3.5 million jobs over the last three years. For America's private sector, it's 2.2 million over the last year, and 4 million over the last three years.
And with that, here's a new-and-improved version of 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. (By popular demand, it now has an x axis.)
Update: Here's another chart, this one showing monthly job losses/gains in just the private sector since the start of the Great Recession.