Economic News Release

Commissioner's Statement on the Employment Situation News Release


Advance copies of this statement are made available to the press
under lock-up conditions with the explicit understanding that the
data are embargoed until 8:30 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time.

                                 
                           Statement of
                                       
                            Keith Hall
                           Commissioner
                    Bureau of Labor Statistics
                                 
                            before the
                                 
                     Joint Economic Committee
                                 
                      UNITED STATES CONGRESS
                                 
                       Friday, April 4, 2008


Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee:

     Thank you for this opportunity to discuss the March labor
market data we released this morning.

     Nonfarm payroll employment continued to trend down in March,
and the unemployment rate rose from 4.8 to 5.1 percent.  Payroll
employment edged down by 80,000 over the month, bringing the
decline over the last 3 months to 232,000.  To put these recent
changes into context, I would note that labor market conditions
started to weaken more than a year ago.  Average monthly job
growth slowed from 175,000 in 2006 to 107,000 in the first half of
2007, to 76,000 in the last half of 2007, and to
-77,000 for the first quarter of this year.  The unemployment rate
remained at or near 4.5 percent during the first half of 2007 but
rose to 4.7 percent in the third quarter, 4.8 percent in the
fourth quarter, and 4.9 percent in the first quarter of this year.

      Returning to the payroll employment figures for March, job
losses occurred in construction, manufacturing, and employment
services.  Job growth continued in health care, food services, and
mining.

     The construction industry lost 51,000 jobs over the month,
with declines concentrated in residential and nonresidential
specialty trade contracting.  Since its peak in September 2006,
construction employment has fallen by 394,000.

     Manufacturing employment decreased by 48,000 in March. Motor
vehicle manufacturing employment was down by 24,000; this decline
largely reflected the impact of a strike at an automotive parts
maker.  The resulting parts shortage triggered plant shutdowns and
idled workers at non-striking motor vehicle factories.  Elsewhere
in manufacturing, there were job declines in several construction-
related industries--wood products, furniture, and nonmetallic
minerals.  Both manufacturing hours and overtime were up by one-
tenth of an hour.

     In the service-providing sector, employment services shed
42,000 jobs in March.  This industry group includes temporary help
services.  Over the past 12 months, employment services has lost
158,000 jobs, three-fourths of which were in temporary help.
Professional and technical services employment was little changed
for the third consecutive month, compared with average monthly job
gains of 27,000 in 2007.

     Elsewhere in the service-providing sector, employment growth
continued in health care and in food services; each industry added
23,000 jobs in March.  In the goods-producing sector, mining
employment rose by 6,000 due to gains in oil and gas extraction
and related support activities.

     Average hourly earnings for production and nonsupervisory
workers in the private sector rose by 5 cents in March and have
increased by 3.6 percent over the past 12 months.  From February
2007 to February 2008, the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage
Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) rose by 4.5 percent.

     Turning to labor market data from the survey of households,
the number of unemployed and the unemployment rate both rose over
the month.  The jobless rate was 5.1 percent in March, up from 4.8
percent in February and from 4.4 percent in March of last year.
Over the month, the number of unemployed persons grew by 434,000
to 7.8 million.  The number of unemployed persons who were job
losers continued to trend up.  Job losers represented 54 percent
of all unemployed persons in March, up from 48 percent 12 months
earlier.  (Other groups of unemployed persons include those
entering the labor market for the first time, those re-entering
after an absence, and those who voluntarily leave jobs.)  About
1.3 million unemployed individuals had been searching for work for
27 weeks or more, little changed from a year earlier.

     The number of persons in the labor force increased in March,
reversing a decline in the prior month.  The labor force
participation rate has been at or near 66.0 percent since last
spring.  In March, 62.6 percent of the population was employed,
down from a recent peak of 63.4 percent at the end of 2006.  The
number of persons working part time who prefer full-time
employment showed little change over the month but has risen by
629,000 over the past 12 months.

     In summary, payroll employment continued to trend down in
March, and job losses have totaled 232,000 for the first 3 months
of the year.  The unemployment rate rose to 5.1 percent.

     My colleagues and I now would be glad to answer your
questions.






Last Modified Date: April 04, 2008
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