March Jobs Report: The Bad News That’s Good News

So the jobs report for March released this morning showed the first really disappointing net job gains figures since 2013: 126,000, with downward revisions totaling 69,000 for January and February.

Here’s how Patricia Cohen of the New York Times explained it:

The labor market’s yearlong streak of robust monthly job creation was broken on Friday with the Labor Department’s report that employers added just 126,000 workers in March, a marked slowdown in hiring that echoed earlier signs that the economy slowed significantly over the winter.

Analysts blamed the punishing weather in the Northeast as well as the plunge in oil prices.

“The American energy industry is adjusting very quickly to low oil prices, and so we’ve seen this in the counts of the number of rigs that are active and are seeing in mining and energy-related industries,” said Carl Tannenbaum, chief economist at Northern Trust. “The bad news is we’re losing some jobs. The good news, is we hope, that the average consumer is saving a tremendous amount of money in lower gasoline prices.”

And here, potentially, is the better news:

The slowdown is likely to reinforce the view among the more dovish policy makers at the Federal Reserve that interest rates should stay near zero a while longer because the economy is still not strong enough to stand on its own.

But I dunno; any good economic news is supposedly a reason for monetary austerity, and the report did show a slightly higher number for wage gains than we’ve seen recently. And McDonalds has raised entry-level wages! Inflation! Inflation!

Let’s hope that’s not the big takeaway at the Fed.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.