Unemployment rate drops in March, but economy adds fewer jobs

The March jobs report, out Friday morning, was a mixed bag. The unemployment rate inched lower again, to 8.2 percent from 8.3 percent, but the economy added just 120,000 jobs, far fewer than the more than 200,000 jobs added each of the three previous months.

Labor economists had expected the U.S. economy to add 205,000 jobs in March, according to a survey from Bloomberg, so the actual figures represent a major disappointment and could present a shock to consumer confidence, the stock market and the economy in general. And while the unemployment rate did decrease to 8.2 percent, the decrease is attributable to people who have either stopped looking for work or who have settled for part-time jobs.

“It is obviously disappointing,” Cliff Waldman, a senior economist at MAPI, the manufacturers alliance, said to The New York Times. “This provides some pretty good evidence that part of the strength of the prior two months was probably seasonal.”

According to the Times, there had been positive signs all week about the jobs report. The widely watched ADP private employment report indicated that the economy had added 209,000 jobs, mostly in small businesses. And another report from the Labor Department showed a significant drop in weekly unemployment claims as well.

Still, the rise represents the best four-month run for the economy in two years, the Associated Press pointed out. Some 858,000 jobs were added over that time.

“A broader measure of weakness in the labor market – which adds to the officially unemployed those who have given up looking for work and those forced to settle for part-time jobs – improved last month to 14.5 percent from 14.9 percent in February,” AP wrote.

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