A warning bell rings on jobs

Panic at the White House? The economy created only 120,000 jobs in March, significantly lower than expectations

Topics: Unemployment,

A warning bell rings on jobsDozens of job seekers line up to enter a job fair in New York. (Credit: AP)

Maybe it was the weather, after all! As the U.S. economic recovery appeared to gain strength in early 2012, a small chorus of naysayers warned that appearances were deceiving: The unseasonably warm temperatures affecting large swaths of the nation offered the real reason for stronger-than-expected hiring.  The new government labor report for March lends some unwelcome support for that thesis. Far underperforming the consensus estimates of economists, the U.S. economy created only 120,000 jobs in March, or about half the 212,000 average of the last three months. The unemployment rate ticked down one notch, to 8.2 percent.

We can’t blame government austerity for the disappointing news, either. Public sector payrolls dropped by only 1,000 in March. The main villain depressing numbers, this time around, appears to be the retail sector. Retail trade employment fell by 34,000, almost all of which was accounted for by “general merchandise stores,” aka department stores. That suggests consumer spending may have taken an unexpectedly large hit in March. All that cash diverted to paying for gas might be taking a toll.

You Might Also Like

Not all the news was bad. The government’s broadest gauge of unemployment, the so-called U-6 measure, which attempts to include part-time workers  and persons “marginally attached to the labor force,” fell sharply, from 14.9 percent to 14.5 percent, largely as a result of a significant drop in the number of people employed as “involuntary part-time workers.”

But overall, if you were looking for signs that the recovery is set to run out of steam, just as it did in 2011 after encouraging signs of growth at the outset of the year, now you’ve got them. You can bet that Mitt Romney will jump all over these numbers. If Friday’s report signals the beginning of a new downward trend, and not a momentary blip, the nascent consensus that economic recovery was likely to boost President Obama’s reelection prospects just took a major hit.

Andrew Leonard
Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 8
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Sonic's Bacon Double Cheddar Croissant Dog

    Sonic calls this a "gourmet twist" on a classic. I am not so, so fancy, but I know that sprinkling bacon and cheddar cheese onto a tube of pork is not gourmet, even if you have made a bun out of something that is theoretically French.

    Krispy Kreme

    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Krispy Kreme's Doughnut Dog

    This stupid thing is a hotdog in a glazed doughnut bun, topped with bacon and raspberry jelly. It is only available at Delaware's Frawley Stadium, thank god.


    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    KFC's Double Down Dog

    This creation is notable for its fried chicken bun and ability to hastily kill your dreams.

    Pizza Hut

    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Pizza Hut's Hot Dog Bites Pizza

    Pizza Hut basically just glued pigs-in-blankets to the crust of its normal pizza. This actually sounds good, and I blame America for brainwashing me into feeling that.

    Carl's Jr.

    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Carl's Jr. Most American Thick Burger

    This is a burger stuffed with potato chips and hot dogs. Choose a meat, America! How hard is it to just choose a meat?!

    Tokyo Dog

    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Tokyo Dog's Juuni Ban

    A food truck in Seattle called Tokyo Dog created this thing, which is notable for its distinction as the Guinness Book of World Records' most expensive hot dog at $169. It is a smoked cheese bratwurst, covered in butter Teriyaki grilled onions, Maitake mushrooms, Wagyu beef, foie gras, black truffles, caviar and Japanese mayo in a brioche bun. Just calm down, Tokyo Dog. Calm down.


    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Limp Bizkit's "Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water"

    This album art should be illegal.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>