Regional job growth slows in March, unemployment rate falls further
The states of the Sixth Federal Reserve District gained a total of 13,400 jobs in March, down from February's increase of 31,300 and a bit slower than the 12-month average gain of 17,400. Florida, Georgia, and Louisiana added payrolls, while Mississippi and Tennessee reduced employment over the month. Alabama did not experience a change in payrolls in March.
Meanwhile, Sixth District states' aggregate unemployment rate dipped 0.2 percentage points, to 8.5 percent in March. The March unemployment rate is down 1.7 percentage points from its year-ago reading of 10.2 percent. All District states except for Louisiana reported unemployment rate decreases.
For an explanation of the relationship between employment data—as derived from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Establishment Survey—and the unemployment rate—a product of the same agency's Household Survey—see the macroblog post by our Atlanta Fed colleague Julie Hotchkiss.
While job growth should remain positive, we are prepared for modest gains similar to what we saw in March. In the latest edition of Southeastern Insights, we reported that:
"Many of our business contacts supported the idea that recent employment gains were related to firms' 'catching up' and restaffing to levels that were more in line with current needs, having cut back payrolls severely during the recession and the early stages of the recovery. While companies continue to turn to part-time, temporary, and contract workers to meet short-term needs, their outlook for hiring full-time employees is a bit more tempered."
Despite this moderate demand for labor, many firms we contacted over the last several months continued to report difficulty finding qualified applicants for skilled positions. This factor may also work to hold back the pace of new job growth in the region. (For a deeper dive into the economic debate under way on this topic, take a look at this recent post from macroblog.)
By Mike Chriszt, a vice president in the research department of the Atlanta Fed,
Neil Desai, a senior analyst in the research department of the Atlanta Fed
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