March 2017 employment increases fell well short of expectations, gaining 98,000 jobs against a projected 180,000. Nevertheless, the unemployment rate hit an important mark at 4.5% -- the lowest it has been in a full decade, pre-dating the Great Recession.
Hiring in March is fascinating. Looking back at historical data from the last 40 years, the month has proceeded record gains, like in 2000 when the American workforce added a whopping 468,000 news jobs. Six years earlier in 1994, it was 464,000 and in 1978, it climbed 513,000 in the month of March.
In contrast, March 2003 employment dropped 203,000. March 2009 was the single-worst month of the Great Recession, plummeting 823,000.
More recent Marches showed strong gains in 2014 and 2016, but in 2013, 2015 and now 2017, the month slowed compared to the preceding jobs numbers. Summer employment has not yet begun, holiday season sales increases start to return to the mean, and recent graduates are not yet on the job market.
Despite the slowing this year, some positive news from the latest jobs figures is the continued increase of wages. Salaries began to climb last year, one of the last and most important pieces in an economic recovery. The increase in March 2017 was 0.2%.
Springtime is a great time of year to get aggressive in your job search. While numbers historically fluctuate, that unpredictability can be a benefit to the proactive job seeker. Now is an especially great time to get active with salary increases.