The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its March employment report this morning, which showed that the U.S. economy added only 88,000 jobs, with the unemployment rate going down one-tenth of a point to 7.6 percent, primarily because the size of the labor force decreased by 0.02 percent (or 496,000 people). The 12-month average of new jobs is down now to 169,000 per month. These numbers are disappointing, even in the face of declining expectations over the week, since Wednesday, when ADP and Moodys Analytics released their March job report numbers to the tune of only 158,000 jobs added in March. (Economists had been expecting to see 190,000 jobs added to the economy in March.)

Hiring at the beginning of the year was even better than past months' reports had suggested. February’s employment numbers were revised up by 32,000 jobs (from 236,000 to 268,000), and January’s  numbers were by 29,000 jobs (from 119,000 to 148,000), bringing that month’s total back to what had been the original estimate. 

But the architecture and engineering services segment of the economy had another good month, adding 2,100 jobs in March. (Professional services, in general, had another good month, regardless of how the rest of the nation’s labor force did.) This kept up the trend, seen over the past half year: February’s 3,100 jobs added followed a blip in hiring from January (a slight loss of 300 jobs), which had followed 3,800 jobs added in December, 2,400 added in November, and 1,500 in October. This is also congruous with what the AIA’s Architecture Billings Index (ABI) has been telling us, which in February had shown growth in architecture billings for seven straight months, with the highest billings score (aka, fastest rate of growth in billings) seen since November 2007.

The construction industry had another good month, too, with 18,000 jobs added to that segment of the economy in March. This is a smaller gain than we’ve seen in past months, with 48,000 jobs added in February, 28,000 added in January, and 30,000 added in December, but it is still growth. All subsectors of the construction segment added jobs except the heavy and civil engineering construction segment, which lost 8,800 jobs (possibly a victim of the sequester, or just a coincidence).

 

 Not Seasonally AdjustedSeasonally Adjusted
Industry
(numbers are in thousands)
March
2012
Jan.
2012
Feb.
2013
March
2013
March
2012
Jan.
2012
Feb.
2013
March
2013
Change from Feb. 2013 - March 2013
Architectural and engineering services1,298.21,316.31,321.61,325.21,315.41,337.11,340.41,342.52.1
Construction - all (sum of the below categories)5,3135,3405,3705,4875,6405,7355,7845,80218
Residential building construction1,181.51,197.01,197.31,209.81,234.21,250.61,256.91,260.23.3
Nonresidential building construction546.1545.9545.1551.5573.2574.7575.8578.12.3
Heavy and civil engineering construction785.4780.0791.0810.6866.4887.2898.9890.1-8.8
Specialty trade contractors3,346.53,362.93,382.13,466.83,539.13,597.23,628.33,651.623.3