Jobless Rate Unchanged in March; Senate to Vote on Long-Term Benefits

WASHINGTON (PAI)–The U.S. unemployment rate stayed unchanged in March at 6.7%, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported, as businesses claimed to create a net of 192,000 new jobs last month, a separate survey showed.

But the share of the jobless out of work for more than six months – who have exhausted their benefits – declined a little, to 35.8% of the 10.486 million unemployed.  Overall, 27,000 more people were jobless in March than in February, but 476,000 more people found jobs.

The Democratic-run Senate plans to try to help the long-term unemployed by approving, during the week of April 7, a 5-month extension of long-term federal jobless benefits, retroactive to last Dec. 28.  It’s a different story in the GOP-run House, though, where Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has flatly rejected any more jobless aid.

AFL-CIO Policy Director Damon Silvers said the report “shows our economy continues to recover, but not robustly enough to provide enough jobs for the millions who remain out of work or to lead to real income gains for most Americans.”

“There are almost 4 million people who are out of work and have exhausted their benefits,” Silvers said.  “In the past these kinds of numbers would have led to bipartisan support for extended unemployment benefits.  It is inexcusable for House Republicans to continue to block the restoration of extended benefits and instead choose to give tax breaks to corporations and the rich.

“The real measure of prosperity is whether the incomes and living standards of America’s working people rise.  And we are not there yet.”

Construction added 19,000 jobs in March, rising to 5.96 million.  That still left 950,000 construction workers (11.3%) jobless.  Union leaders say the official rate understates joblessness in construction, since if a worker toils even one hour during the survey week, he or she is counted as being employed for the whole month.

Factories shed 1,000 jobs in March, down to 12.079 million.  There were 826,000 jobless factory workers in March (5.4%).  The biggest changes were in food plants

(-4,600 jobs), plastics (-3,700), miscellaneous goods (+3,000) and machinery (+2,500).

Private service-producing industries added 167,000 jobs, while government jobs showed no net change, BLS said.  As usual, the biggest gainers in services were in low-paying occupations: Temps (+28,400 jobs), retail trade (+21,300), health care (+19,400) and bars and restaurants (+30,400).  The lobby for that last sector, the lowest-paying of all, is among the most virulent foes of raising the minimum wage.