Washington—Although the U.S. Department of Labor reported today that March “nonfarm payroll employment” rose by 192,000 missing analysts’ expectations, jobs in retail picked up perhaps signaling a similar pickup in sales.
The unemployment rate remains flat at about 6.7%.
According to the NRF, month-to-month retail employment increased 18,200 in March and 229,000 year-over-year. The increase is consistent with recent positive economic indicator reports and bodes well for income and consumer confidence as the industry enters into the busy spring selling season.
Job Market to Strengthen?
“We’re encouraged by the progression seen in March related to hiring and other indicators that point to overall economic growth,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “First quarter results have been less than stellar thus far thanks to a variety of factors, including unusually bad weather in almost every part of the country. As the year progresses, I expect the job market to strengthen, which will put consumers in a position to feel even more confident about spending, bolstering the sub-par economic recovery.”
Add NRF President Matthew Shay: “Though we can report relatively positive figures for March, there’s still noticeable slack in the labor market; in order to see momentum in economic growth through 2014, it’s imperative our leaders in Washington put job creation and the economy back at the top of their agenda, giving businesses the confidence they need to grow and invest.”
In a recent consumer survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, more than half (51.9%) of Americans surveyed agreed the U.S. economy should be a top priority for Congress in 2014; 46% said job creation/unemployment should be a top priority.
Today’s results truly are a mixed bag. Payroll employment is now about 100,000 jobs higher than the roughly 116 million jobs that private firms provided back in January 2008, before the start of the Great Recession.
However, total U. S. jobs are still below this early-2008 peak, because the public sector (government) has shed 547,000 jobs over the same period.
Thus unemployment remains doggedly higher than normal, with 2.8 million more people unemployed today than when the recession began about six years ago.