COVID-19 Had No Impact on March Employment Numbers Coming In Below Expectations

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Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 431,000 in March, below analysts’ expectations and significantly lower than February’s 678,000, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported on April 1. Notable job gains continued in leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, retail trade and manufacturing.

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Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal estimated that employers added 490,000 jobs in March.

The unemployment rate declined to 3.6%, from 3.8% in February, according to the BLS. Overall, job growth averaged 562,000 per month in the first quarter of 2022, the same as the average monthly gain for 2021. However, employment is down by 1.6 million, or 1% from its pre-pandemic level in February 2020, the BLS noted.

Jeanniey Walden, CMO of DailyPay, told GOBankingRates, “another first Friday of the month, another stellar jobs report. Employers across nearly every major industry added 431,000 jobs to their payrolls, pushing the unemployment rate down to 3.6%. The closely watched job participation rate edged up to 62.4%, within a single percent of the pre-pandemic level as more Americans came off the sidelines to join the hottest labor market since Woodstock.”

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“It is no April Fools to say this is the first time in two years that COVID had little impact on the labor market, with even teleworking declining to 10%, down from 21% in the year-ago period and the lowest level since the BLS began collecting that data in 2020,” Walden said. “While the number of unemployed is now virtually the same as it was pre-pandemic, the jobs supply has soared with almost two jobs available for every unemployed American. For those that withdrew from the workforce because of COVID or stimulus, inflation is bringing them back. With average hourly earnings up 13 cents in March, it’s no wonder only 17% of workers say their pay has kept pace with inflation.

“Expect the pressure to grow for the Fed to become more hawkish in its interest rate hikes,” she warned.

Job growth continued in professional and business services, which added 102,000 jobs, with notable gains in services to buildings and dwellings; accounting and bookkeeping services; management and technical consulting services; computer systems design and related services and scientific research and development services (+5,000).

Additional sectors which saw growth in March include retail trade, manufacturing and social assistance.

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Cody Harker, Senior Director of Insights & Strategy at recruitment marketing company Bayard Advertising, told GOBankingRates that despite job openings coming in below expectations, we’re optimistic to see what seems to be a standard regression from high job-seeker activity at the beginning of the year.

Harker added that he saw a 13.9% overall increase in click volume on job ads in March with significant interest in hourly sectors such as food service, retail, and customer service.

“Our hope is that increased top-line activity in March translates to a better jobs figure in April,” he said. “The Great Resignation/Reassessment is showing no signs of slowing down. While there is ample opportunity for those looking for a new job, many are concerned about high inflation rates and are looking for competitive or above-market salaries.”

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He added that for attraction and retention purposes, in addition to perks, companies should also invest in cultural development and enhancement of employees’ workplace experiences.

“Workers understand the current state of employment, and they’re exercising their influence to drive better work conditions,” he said.

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About the Author

Yaël Bizouati-Kennedy is a full-time financial journalist and has written for several publications, including Dow Jones, The Financial Times Group, Bloomberg and Business Insider. She also worked as a vice president/senior content writer for major NYC-based financial companies, including New York Life and MSCI. Yaël is now freelancing and most recently, she co-authored  the book “Blockchain for Medical Research: Accelerating Trust in Healthcare,” with Dr. Sean Manion. (CRC Press, April 2020) She holds two master’s degrees, including one in Journalism from New York University and one in Russian Studies from Université Toulouse-Jean Jaurès, France.

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