Lukewarm Jobs Report for March Reflects Employers' Continued Caution, Analysts Say

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The unemployment rate inched down to 7.6 percent in March, from 7.7 percent in February, while nonfarm payroll added only 88,000 jobs, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported April 5.  

“Employers are more confident today, but they're still guarded,” Rosemary Haefner, CareerBuilder's vice president of human resources, said in a written statement. “They're assessing the implications of spending cuts, what healthcare costs for employees will ultimately be, how weakened global economies will impact the [United States], and that is reflected in their hiring pace.”

Rooney Russell, a senior consultant for PI Worldwide, a management consulting firm in Wellesley Hills, Mass., told BNA April 5: “The C-suite is not opening the doors to commit to hiring people because they are afraid of turnover and whether they have enough money healthcare-wise to comply with [the Affordable Care Act]. They are being cautious because they don't know what's happening, and these numbers almost reflect how they are feeling.”

Over the last 12 months, employment growth has averaged 169,000 per month, BLS said.

In March, BLS figures show employment increased in professional and business services and in health care, but declined in retail trade employment.

“For HR, in some areas our members are still saying they are having trouble finding people to hire, especially in professional services and health care,” Jennifer Schramm, manager of workplace trends and forecasting at the Society for Human Resource Management, told BNA April 5. “Those are the areas where the economy has added the most jobs, and where SHRM members are having trouble filling their key vacancies.”

BLS reported that professional and business services added 51,000 jobs in March, with accounting and bookkeeping services adding 11,000 jobs, and temporary help services also showing gains.

The health care sector added 23,000 jobs in March, which is similar to the prior 12-month average, BLS said. Jobs expanded by 15,000 in ambulatory health care services, such as home health care, and by 8,000 in hospitals.

Construction employment also continued to trend up in March, adding 18,000 jobs, BLS said. Employment last month also expanded among specialty trade contractors, which added 23,000 jobs.

Within leisure and hospitality, BLS said employment in food services and drinking places continued to expand in March, adding 13,000 jobs.

BLS reported a decline in retail trade employment last month, with a decrease of 24,000 jobs. Job declines took place in clothing and clothing accessories stores, which lost 15,000 jobs, BLS said, along with building material and garden supply stores (-10,000), and electronics and appliance stores (-6,000).

By Rhonda Smith