On Friday April 7 the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its March jobs report. At 98,000 jobs added and steep downward revisions to January and February, the report was a disappointment to market watchers and other analysts. It failed to really it as a political disappointment though, with so much other news dominating headlines. Now that we’ve had a week to consider the numbers, I thought I’d put together some reads on the significance of the March jobs report, some tips on how to read and understand jobs reports generally, and some of the broad economic trends we can take from March through to the rest of the year.
Here is your Friday Five:
The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) is an important complement to the monthly jobs report, since it adds more detail to the employment picture. It drills down to look specifically at turnover and WSJ’s read on it is that the most recent JOLTS shows that the economy lacks “vigor.” That is, while the overall employment picture is positive, what growth we do see is sluggish. This could mean that the US economy is approaching full employment or it could be a sign of something else on the way.
Normally when the jobs report drops it dominates business and political news for at least a day. The headline numbers get thrown around as pundits try to nail down a simple reason for the previous month’s job gains and losses. (Usually they’re wrong.) But this month there were so many other stories, from President Trump meeting with President Xi of China, to the US Navy bombing a Syrian airforce base, that the jobs report doesn’t seem to have made as much of an impression. But aside from political news, is the jobs report waning in importance in the business world as well?
When employment is strong and other markets are too, the generally slow moving jobs report tends to be less relied on by market watchers and analysts.
Is this President Trump’s first jobs report? Is it a signal that his policies are discouraging hiring? No to both, actually. FiveThirtyEight points out that jobs reports aren’t a good barometer for presidential performance since the US president isn’t actually in charge of the US economy or job creation. Hiring responds much more to economic factors that presidents influence but don’t dictate. Not only will it be months before we see the real impact of Trump’s policies on the economy, but that impact will never be clearly reflected in the jobs report — that’s just not the right place to look.
Ok, so the jobs report was disappointing. Awful actually, if you isolate retail. But what does that mean for you? Over at Forbes Adam Hartung looks at 10 things that employees and employers can take away from the March jobs report, including the changing impact of immigration on the job prospects of Americans (it’s lower), how a tighter labour market will slower push up wages and make it easier for workers to change jobs, and why employers must begin investing far more in training and development.
The most important trend to keep an eye on this year is shrinking employment in retail. While retail was an important part of the recovery from the Great Recession, and millions of Americans still rely on retail jobs to get by, large chains have begun to shutter stores, small businesses continue to struggle with competition, and some major retailers have closed entirely. The retail employment picture is so grim, says Market Watch, that it’s like we’re in a recession again — but one limited to retail.
So if those retail jobs, which were once so important in getting America back to work, disappear, where will all of those workers go?