The Latest Trend on Jobs – Volatility?

By at 6 April, 2018, 10:58 am

by Raymond J. Keating-

The latest trend – if one can call it a trend – in the employment data seems to be volatility. And after big moves up in February, March was a down month, according to the latest report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In terms of the establishment survey, payrolls only moved up by only 103,000 in March. That was after a big jump of 326,000 in February. Over the past seven months, there were strong payroll gains in three, mediocre performance in two months, and two weak months.

As for the household survey, after major moves in a positive direction during February, the March numbers went negative. For example, the labor force declined by 158,000 and employment declined by 37,000. While the number of unemployed declined by 121,000, that was far outdistanced by a 323,000 increase in those not in the labor force.

So, the labor force participation rate actually inched down in March, from 63.0 percent to 62.9 percent, while the employment rate was unmoved at 60.4 percent.

Self-Employment Numbers Stronger

Finally, one positive reversal in the March data came on the self-employment front.

Incorporated self-employed (not seasonally adjusted) came in strong versus that same month last year (5.891 million in March 2018 vs. 5.74 million in March 2017) – an improvement compared to last month’s comparison numbers (5.767 million in February 2018 versus 5.681 million in February 2017). And unincorporated self-employed (seasonally adjusted) moved up in March, after a decline in February – moving from 9.713 million in February to 9.793 million in March.

Looking ahead, further moving the policy environment in a pro-growth direction is vital, including further tax and regulatory relief, reining in government spending, and eliminating troubling protectionist threats and costs, and instead adopting a pro-free trade agenda.


Raymond J. Keating is chief economist for the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council.

Keating’s latest book published by SBE Council is titled Unleashing Small Business Through IP:  The Role of Intellectual Property in Driving Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Investment and it is available free on SBE Council’s website here.

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