Official jobless rate stays at 5.5 percent

WASHINGTON – The U.S. official unemployment rate stayed at 5.5 percent in March, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced.  Businesses claimed to create a net of 126,000 jobs.

BLS said there were 8.58 million unemployed workers during its March survey week, some 130,000 fewer than in February.  The number employed grew by only 34,000.

But 29.8 percent of the jobless in March have been out of work for six months or more, meaning they’ve exhausted regular jobless benefits.  In the last Congress, Senate GOP filibusters blocked labor-backed Democratic attempts to extend benefits for those long-term unemployed.  Similar legislation has virtually no chance in the Republican-run 114th Congress.

And the jobless figure does not tell the whole story. One of every nine workers (10.9 percent) were unemployed, underemployed, toiling at part-time jobs when they really want full-time work, or had become so discouraged they stopped looking.

Factories and construction each shed 1,000 jobs in March, a separate survey shows.  A 6,500-job cut in specialty trade contractors offset gains elsewhere. Construction employed 6.344 million workers. But almost one of every 10 (9.5 percent) of construction workers – some 831,000 – were still unemployed, BLS said.

Factories employed 12.319 million workers and there were 734,000 (4.8 percent) jobless factory workers. There were no big gains or losses anywhere in that sector.

Services added 142,000 jobs in March and are edging close to 100 million overall.  The biggest gainers were in three of the lowest paying service sectors: Health care (+30,000 jobs), retail trade (+25,900) and temps (+11,400). 

Governments shed 3,000 jobs combined with losses in federal and state government (-6,000 combined) offset by a 3,000-job gain in local governments, not counting schools.

Photo: Mark Lennihan/AP


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

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