Wintry Unemployment Report Chills Markets

Popular Economics Weekly


Graph: Marketwatch

The smallest number of nonfarm payroll jobs since last year were created in March—103,000 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But it’s still pushing wages higher—to 2.7 percent annually, and the working population participation rate to 63 percent, which is finally approaching the long term 64 percent average.

It could be wintry weather has suppressed some hiring, but what looks like a full-blown trade war might also be affecting the labor market.  February and January have been revised with a net of minus 50,000 jobs. And the first quarter average of 202,000 is a bit below the fourth quarter’s 221,000, reported the Labor Department. The breakdown for March shows another very strong showing for manufacturing, up 22,000, and with professional & business services, a component that tracks labor demand, rising a strong 33,000.


Graph: Econoday

Manufacturing activity remains strong, with the Institute of Supply Management’s March index at 59.3 percent and other indicators; such as new orders, production and supply deliveries; above 60 percent. Any number above 50 percent means a majority of the supply managers polled see an expansion in their manufacturing activity.

“This indicates strong growth in manufacturing for the 19th consecutive month, led by continued expansion in new orders, production activity, employment and inventories, with suppliers continuing to struggle delivering to demand,” said Timothy R. Fiore, CPSM, C.P.M., Chair of the Institute for Supply Management® (ISM®) Manufacturing Business Survey Committee.

One indicator of future manufacturing troubles was that input prices are soaring with the new tariffs on aluminum and steel—78.1 percent of the managers reported higher prices. It looks like President Trump wants a full-blown trade war to win concessions from China, the EU and other trading partners, so beware of this danger to future manufacturing jobs.

And President Trump is doubling down on the $50 billion he previously announced of China tariffs with the request for his trade negotiator to draw up a list affecting another $100 billion in Chinese goods.

“Notwithstanding these actions,” said Trump on announcing the additional tariffs, “the United States is still prepared to have discussions in further support of our commitment to achieving free, fair, and reciprocal trade and to protect the technology and intellectual property of American companies and American people. Trade barriers must be taken down to enhance economic growth in America and around the world. I am committed to enabling American companies and workers to compete on a level playing field around the world, and I will never allow unfair trade practices to undermine American interests.”

We can therefore say future employment prospects will be uncertain, to say the least.

Harlan Green © 2018

About populareconomicsblog

Harlan Green is editor/publisher of, and content provider of 3 weekly columns to various blogs--Popular Economics Weekly and The Huffington Post
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