The U.S. unemployment rate held steady at 9.7% for the third straight month in March as the world's largest economy added jobs at the fastest pace in three years – the most-certain sign yet that the worst job market in a generation is finally improving, economists say.
Still, there are causes for concern.
On average, there are five or six unemployed people competing for each job opening, meaning there's ferocious competition for new positions. At the present rate, it could be four or five years before the jobless rate drops back to the more-normal range of 5% to 6%.
On March 15, Gallup's unemployment rate was 10.3% – essentially the same as the 10.4% of March 1, but down from 10.8% in mid-February. However, this decline in the percentage of unemployed Americans was more than offset over the past 30 days by an increase in the percentage of those working part-time but wanting full-time work, from 9.0% in mid-February to 9.7% in mid-March.
Gallup's data suggest that while the U.S. unemployment rate has declined over the past month, the employment gains may be due to U.S. workers taking part-time jobs – even though they want to work full time, preferably in jobs in their chosen professions. But those jobs, in many cases, are either not available, or are tough to get because of the intense competition.
That brings us to next week's Money Morning "Question of the Week:" How confident are you in the U.S. jobs market? Do you feel that the U.S. employment outlook is getting better, getting worse, or essentially just holding its own? Are you in the job you want to be working in? If not, why not?
Send your thoughts, questions, concerns and insights to firstname.lastname@example.org. Don't miss a chance to let your "vote" be heard!
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News and Related Story Links:
- Money Morning Archive:
Reader Question of the Week Feature.
- Money Morning News Analysis:
The U.S. Employment Outlook: Bad For Paychecks, Good For U.S. Stocks.
- Cleveland, Ohio Business News:
U.S. unemployment rate stays at 9.7 percent in March.
Underemployment Hits 20% in Mid-March.
Americans Say Jobs Top Problem Now, Deficit in Future.