Employers Added 120,000 Jobs in March, Fewest in Five Months

Looking for a very bad opening and subsequent sell off in Asia and especially the euro zone as hopes of exports to the US fade leaving them no escape from their deteriorating domestic demand.

This is now the beginning of the endgame for the Euro zone, as they discover the firewall is another Maginot line that markets go through like a knife through butter.

Employers Added 120,000 Jobs in March

By Timothy R. Homan

April 6 (Bloomberg) — Hiring by American employers trailed forecasts in March, casting doubt on the vigor of the more than two-year-old economic expansion.

The 120,000 increase in payrolls reported by the Labor Department in Washington today was the smallest in five months and less than the most pessimistic estimate in a Bloomberg News survey of economists. The unemployment rate fell to 8.2 percent from 8.3 percent as people left the labor force.

Stock futures, the dollar and Treasury yields all fell as the report highlighted Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke’s concern that stronger economic growth is needed to keep the nation’s jobs engine humming. Today’s data also showed that Americans worked fewer hours and earned less on average per week, boding ill for the consumer spending that makes up 70 percent of the world’s largest economy.

“We see a lack of sustainability in terms of strong job growth,” Tony Crescenzi, a strategist at Pacific Investment Management Co. in Newport Beach, California, said in a radio interview on “Bloomberg Surveillance” with Tom Keene and Ken Prewitt. “This is still not strong enough to create escape velocity, which is to say an economy strong enough to make it on its own without additional monetary stimulus from the Federal Reserve.”

Among those having trouble finding work is Xander Piper, 30, who has been looking for a full-time job since September, when he completed a master’s program in social science at the University of Chicago. He decided to go to graduate school in 2010 to improve his employment prospects after losing his position at an advertising agency.

Expected Work Sooner
“When I graduated, I assumed I was going to get a job within the first couple of months,” said Piper, a San Francisco resident who said he’s looking for work in education and sometimes sends out 10 resumes a day.

“Now I work for a temp company, but even they’re having trouble staffing me,” he said. “I recently had a two to three month break at my temp company. What I have gotten recently is call center work, which is just brutal.”

A separate report today from the Fed showed consumer borrowing rose less than forecast in February, restrained by a drop in credit-card debt. Credit increased $8.7 billion, the least in four months, after an $18.6 billion gain in January.

Employment Forecasts
Employment in March was forecast to increase by 205,000, according to the median projection of 80 economists in the Bloomberg survey. Estimates ranged from increases of 175,000 to 250,000 after an initially estimated 227,000 gain the prior month.

S&P 500 futures expiring in June slumped 1.1 percent to 1,374.90 following the benchmark index’s 0.7 percent weekly loss. U.S. stock exchanges were shut for the Good Friday holiday. The dollar weakened 1 percent to 81.57 yen at 12:14 p.m. in New York, touching the lowest level since March 8. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.06 percent from 2.18 percent.

“We see modest growth inside the U.S. and demand for labor,” Carl Camden, president and chief executive officer of Kelly Services Inc. (KELYA) (KELYA), a Troy, Michigan-based staffing agency, said March 12 during a conference. The expansion is “a nice steady, not robust, not rock-and-roll, but a steady recovery, capable of producing a steady stream of jobs.”

Temporary Hiring
Employment at service providers increased 89,000 after a 211,000 gain in February. Professional and business service payrolls rose 31,000 last month, restrained by a 7,500 drop in temporary hiring.

J.C. Penney Co., the fourth-largest U.S. department-store company, is among employers cutting jobs. The company said today it notified about 1,000 workers, primarily in its headquarters in Plano, Texas, and its Pittsburgh customer call center, that their jobs will be cut as part of a restructuring plan.

Part of the slowdown in March may have reflected a warmer winter, which prompted some employers to hire more or retain workers in previous months than they otherwise would have, Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics Ltd., said in an e-mail to clients. The average gain in payrolls from December through February was 246,000.

“We had mild weather, which basically had consumers in the marketplace earlier,” said Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist of the National Retail Federation, a Washington-based trade group. As a result, retailers postponed headcount reductions that typically follow the holiday shopping season, he said.

Retailers Cut Back
The March data showed a 34,000 decrease in retail employment, the biggest decline since October 2009. The Labor Department said today that the number of people unable to work due to inclement weather was 360,000 below average from December through February.

Temperatures in December through February averaged 36.8 degrees Fahrenheit (2.7 degrees Celsius), 3.9 degrees above the average in the 20th century, representing the fourth-warmest winter on record for the 48 contiguous U.S. states, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Some economists saw similarities with early 2011, when the economy slowed amid rising energy prices, a disruption of supplies caused by the tsunami in Japan and political gridlock in the U.S. over the debt ceiling.

This year, rising gasoline prices and the European debt crisis are taking a toll, said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics Inc. in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

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