Payrolls in U.S. Rose 162,000 in March; Unemployment at 9.7%

Employment in the U.S. increased in March by the most in three years and the unemployment rate held at 9.7 percent as companies gained confidence the economic recovery will be sustained., Bloomberg 4/2/2010 8:47:28 AM

Payrolls rose by 162,000 last month, less than anticipated, after a revised 14,000 decrease in February that was smaller than initially estimated, figures from the Labor Department in Washington showed. The increase included 48,000 temporary workers hired by the government to help conduct the 2010 census. Average hourly earnings fell and hours worked rose.

Part of the payroll gain last month likely reflected a rebound from the February blizzards that set seasonal snowfall records in cities including Washington and Philadelphia, shuttering some businesses during the week of the government survey. Any hiring that would have taken place that week is figured into the March job count instead.

Hiring at the Census Bureau for the population count may have the biggest impact on payroll figures in April through June, when the bulk of the additions will take place. The program will then subtract from the job count the following months as employees are dismissed after the work is done.

The agency said it will take on 1.15 million temporary workers in the first half of the year to conduct the population count that occurs every 10 years.

For that reason, economists will be excluding workers on public payrolls for much of the rest of the year in gauging the state of the labor market.

Today’s report from the Labor Department showed that government payrolls increased by 39,000 in March. State and local governments reduced employment by 9,000 during the month, while the federal government added 48,000.

The so-called underemployment rate -- which includes part- time workers who’d prefer a full-time position and people who want work but have given up looking -- increased to 16.9 percent from 16.8 percent.

Factory payrolls increased 17,000 in March after rising 6,000 in the prior month. The median forecast by economists in the Bloomberg survey called for a gain of 15,000.

Payrolls at builders rose 15,000 last month, the biggest gain since March 2007, after declining 59,000. Financial firms reduced payrolls by 21,000, after a 15,000 drop the prior month.

Service industries, which include banks, insurance companies, restaurants and retailers, added 121,000 workers after an increase of 33,000 in February. Private service providers added 82,000 workers to payrolls in March.

The number of temporary workers increased 40,000 in March. Payrolls at temporary-help agencies often turn up before total employment because companies prefer to see a steady increase in demand before taking on permanent staff.

Average hourly earnings fell 0.1 percent in March, the first drop since comparable records began in 2006.

The average work week for all workers rose to 34 hours in March from 33.9 hours the prior month, when winter storms temporarily closed some businesses.

Payrolls in U.S. Rose 162,000 in March; Unemployment at 9.7%