Employment falls nationally and in most metro areas; construction jobs, spending skid
Nonfarm payroll employment continued to decline sharply in March (-663,000, seasonally adjusted), bringing the 12-month decline to 4.8 million (-3.5 percent), the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday. The unemployment rate rose to 9 percent, not seasonally adjusted (8.5 percent, seasonally adjusted), from 5.2 percent a year ago. Construction remained in the vanguard, with job losses of 126,000 for the month and 928,000 (-12.5 percent) over 12 months. The 12-month decrease amounted to nearly one-fifth of all nonfarm job losses, although construction accounted for just one out of 20 jobs. The unemployment rate in construction, 21.1 percent in March, was the highest of any industry, and the 9-point increase (from 12 percent in March 2008) was the largest jump. Nevertheless, average hourly earnings in construction continued to outpace the overall economy, rising to $22.61 in March, seasonally adjusted, a gain of $1.03 (4.8 percent) over 12 months, compared to a rise of 3.4 percent for all private nonfarm production and nonsupervisory employees. Architectural and engineering services employment, a harbinger of demand for future construction, rose 0.2 percent in March but was down 2.2 percent over 12 months, according to an April 4 Data DIGest report.