After half a year of creating an average of 187,000 new jobs per month, from September to February, there were projections that, at such a pace of job creation, by the end of the year the unemployment rate would fall under 6 percent.
Unfortunately, job creation figures for March did not support this optimistic projection. Last week, the Labor Department announced that the creation of new jobs in March amounted to a disappointing 88,000. The unemployment rate decreased by one-tenth of a percentage point, true, from 7.7 percent in February to 7.6 percent in March. But this was because 496,000 persons stopped looking for work.
This raised concerns, because it could signal that, for the third consecutive year, the U.S. economy creates jobs vigorously in the winter and slows down in the spring and summer. As described in the New York Times, the disappointing job creation figure in March may indicate that "the spring swoon is back."
Either way, no conclusions can be drawn from a one-month figure, particularly from the monthly unemployment figures, because they are subject to revision. Additionally, the Federal Reserve confirmed after its last meeting in March that it still sees downside risks in the U.S. economic outlook and expressed concern that fiscal policy has become more restrictive.
As described by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, "We need to see sustained improvement . . . one or two months doesn't cut it."
Isaac Cohen is an international analyst and consultant, a commentator on economic and financial issues for CNN en Espaņol TV and radio, and a former director, UNECLAC Washington Office.
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