Unemployment remains at 9.7%

Despite adding 162,000 jobs in March, unemployment remained unchanged at 9.7%. Even that figure is misleading because the government hired 48,000 census workers.

Javier Hernandez of the New York Times:

The unemployment rate held steady at 9.7 percent, the Labor Department said, but it is expected to worsen later this year as discouraged workers re-enter the labor force.

In its report, the government said job losses in February were less severe than the previously thought. The economy shed 14,000 jobs that month, compared with an original forecast of 36,000.

The snapshot of the job market was unusually hazy in March. The hiring of 48,000 census workers gave payrolls a powerful but temporary jolt. In addition, some gains may have been the result of unusually severe weather in February, which probably exaggerated the job losses that month.

Still, economists said the ambiguity surrounding the data did not change the underlying prognosis for the labor market. Many believe the economy has reached a turning point and will begin adding jobs at a slow, but steady, pace.

"We have had this massive disaster, but we're at a place now where things are stabilizing," said Heidi Shierholz, an economist at the Economic Policy Institutein Washington. "But it's nowhere near the level of growth we need to start moving the dial."

Note the double talk. On the one hand, the job numbers will worsen later this year as discouraged workers re-enter the job market. On the other hand, the economy "will begin adding jobs at a slow, but steady, pace."

Slow and steady is not good enough. And we have yet to see the fallout from companies who are still calculating the effect of Obamacare on their bottom lines. Expect headlines soon remarking on the "unexpected" job losses.