Bureau of Labor Statistics Jobs Report: March 2014

The Bureau of Labor Statistics just released its March jobs report, and in between all the data tables and complicated econo-speak, there's a lot for the average job hunter to take away from it. The unemployment rate remained steady at 6.7 percent, which equals about 10.5 million people unemployed, but 192,000 new jobs were added. There was a boost in health care, mining and logging, and professional and business services, according to the BLS.

We talked to Dr. Jack Tatom, a fellow at the Institute for Applied Economics, Global Health and the Study of Business Enterprise at Johns Hopkins University, to get his take on the important trends in this month's report.

Unemployed vs. employed

It might not seem encouraging that the unemployment rate isn't changing, but the number of people employed counts, too. In other words, don't focus only on the unemployment statistic. "This masks the fact that the number employed has been rising rapidly and has been matched temporarily by increases in the labor force — the number working or looking for work," Tatom says. "So, while it may appear that the economy is not making much headway on reducing unemployment over the past three months, this is not the case; employment growth is booming."

Long-term unemployment

Even if the unemployment rate is static, the number of long-term unemployed has dropped by 837,000 over the past 12 months, according to the jobs report. That decline is equal to about 18 percent of the number of long-term unemployed last year, and that's an encouraging trend, Tatom says. But the recovery is still slow.

"Even at the recent pace of reduction in these numbers, however, it will take another two years to get the number of long-term unemployed down to a level in line with our pre-2008 performance," Tatom says. Many people won't get out of that category by finding new jobs. "Instead, many will age into early retirement, obtain disability benefits — which will largely eliminate their taking future jobs — or simply drop out of the labor force."

Earnings report

The job growth hasn't been matched when it comes to pay, however. Employment is growing, but earnings growth has remained weak, according to Tatom and the BLS. Hourly earnings for all employees were down by 1 cent after increasing 9 cents in February, and the average hourly earnings in the past year have only gone up 2.1 percent — not much faster than the price increases, Tatom says.

"In the six years since the last recession, real wages have risen at a 0.5 percent annual rate, down from the meager 1.3 pace of the previous six years," he says. "Taken together, less than 1 percent per year real wage growth for 12 years is relatively dismal compared with earlier experience."

What's the overall impression?

According to Tatom, the most important thing for job-seekers to take away from this report is the fact that growth sped up in the past month and the past quarter — in spite of the record cold temperatures holding back both employment and production. "The economy is growing strongly relative to its capacity," he says.


"The Employment Situation - March 2014," Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 4, 2014,