With the monthly ritual of the jobs report, as with presidential primaries, an awful lot of it is about beating expectations. And the March report emphatically did not. With dropping unemployment claims and widespread private estimates of a good month, the betting number for the official BLS report was at around 200,000 new jobs, close to February’s 227,000. But the actual number was 120,000. There was also a slight downward adjustment for the January numbers, but a slight upward adjustment for the February numbers. The unemployment rate was down very slightly from 8.3% to 8.2%, though it appears workforce participation was down, too. But in the world of political interpretation of jobs reports, had the unemployment rate gone slightly up rather than slightly down, the air would be filled with Republican cries of Disaster! Disaster! We’ll actually hear a lot of that anyway.
You may recall Nate Silver’s projection in February that Obama’s “magic number” for job creation between now and November in order to put himself in a very strong position for re-election was 150,000 jobs per month. The economy is still slightly ahead of that pace on average, but the latest figures obviously did not help.
More about this later as more information becomes available.