The economy added 192,000 jobs last month, the labor department reported Friday — fewer than hoped for but more than feared. The stock market liked the news, paradoxically, because the report was strong enough to grow but weak enough that the Federal Reserve will not move quickly to tighten its interest rates and bond buying support.
"I think this is enough of a goldilocks number for the market — it doesn't change Fed tapering, but still signals the economy is expanding gradually," Anthony Valeri, investment strategist for LPL Financial, told CNBC.
The numbers were just slightly below the 200,000 predicted by most Wall Street experts. The economy needs to add 150,000 a month just to keep up with population growth, so this number represents only very incremental rather than surging growth. The standard unemployment number held steady at 6.7 percent.
Previous months' numbers were revised slightly upward, the Wall Street Journal notes. "The Labor Department revised January and February’s job gains up by 37,000. Employers added 144,000 positions in January from an initially reported 129,000 jobs. February’s gains were revised up to 197,000 from 175,000. That brings the three-month average to 178,000 jobs added so far this year."
"The headline numbers of jobs added and the overall unemployment are, however, becoming less relevant indicators of how strong or weak the labor market actually is," wrote Benjamin Walsh at Reuters. "The U.S. has been adding jobs at a low but steady rate for years, and unemployment has been falling. But the debate about what economists call slack in the labor market focuses on other indicators: wage growth (which has not been strong for several years), long-term unemployment, and the percentage of Americans participating in the jobs market."
On those fronts, there is positive movement, notes prominent conservative blogger Ed Morrissey on Hot Air, a close observer of economic data, a harsh critic of the Obama administration, and therefore a good bellwether if he has something nice to say.
"The U-3 and U-6 numbers remained basically steady," Morrissey notes. "The traditional U-3 unemployment rate has been at 6.7 percent for three of the last four months, but that relies on a definition of the workforce that has dramatically declined as a percentage of population over the last four years. The U-6 number solves for some of that, but that’s also remaining steady at 12.7 percent two of the last three months. The civilian workforce participation rate has increased a bit during that time too, and the workforce has increased about 760,000 since January — not a bad sign."