For the fourth straight year in a row, supposedly strong winter job growth proved illusory as spring jobs numbers proved again that the United States is still suffering through the weakest economic recovery since the Great Depression.
Today the Labor Department released its March jobs report showing that the unemployment fell to 7.6 percent as the U.S. economy added just 86,000 jobs. But while U.S. employers reported hiring a few more workers, the number of employed Americans actually fell by 206,000 (employers and Americans answer two completely different surveys for each jobs report). Another half million Americans, 496,000, left the work force entirely. Only 63.3 percent of Americans now either have jobs or are looking force. That is the lowest labor force participation rate since 1979.
Liberals are already trying to blame the sequester for the weakening jobs market, but the data does not support their case. While public sector jobs did fall by 7,000 in March, that was driven almost entirely by Postal Services job losses which began long before not just the sequester, but also the recession. In fact, state governments actually added more than 9,000 jobs in March.
If any policy change hurt the job market this spring it was tax hikes. Retail was one of the biggest job losers in March, shedding 24,000 jobs. When Americans have less money in their pockets thanks to tax hikes, the retail sector is often the hardest hit.
And what happened to those half-million Americans who dropped out of the workforce last month? We do not know for sure, but a Heritage foundation study from last year suggests that most of them either retire and start collecting Social Security, go on disability and start collecting Social Security, or go back to school.