Private Payrolls Dropped in March


Wall Street Journal

Factory Orders Increased Last Month

By CONOR DOUGHERTY And JEFF BATER

A survey of private employers shows they shed 23,000 jobs in March in a sign that the labor market remains a mixed bag in an economy that’s otherwise growing again. The private-employer report came two days before the Labor Department issues its own, broader job report and the negative number came as a disappointment to many who were expecting both measures to mark a turning point into positive territory.

[unemployed0331] Getty ImagesPrivate-sector jobs in the U.S. dropped by 23,000 in March. Above, the unemployed line up as they wait to gain entry to meet employers at the Los Angeles Career Fair. 

The Labor Department’s report, which is still expected to show job gains, includes government workers and is influenced by factors that don’t show up in the survey released Wednesday by payroll processor Automatic Data Processing and the forecasting firm Macroeconomic Advisers. The Labor Department’s report is expected to show a sharp jump in government hiring—mainly workers needed to conduct the Census—and a bounce-back from the decline in jobs believed to be caused by winter storms in February. 

WSJ’s Evan Newmark and Grainne McCarthy join the News Hub discuss the weaker-than-expected ADP report and whether it’s a sign of a jobs recovery. 
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The ADP report showed private employers shed only slightly fewer jobs than the 24,000 cut in February, but far less than the 82,000 jobs lost in January. March’s 23,000 job loss was the smallest month-over-month decline since the report began showing losses as the recession was hitting in February 2008. The ADP report caused some economists to revise downward their expectations for gains in private-sector employment in Friday’s report and markets fell on the report.

 Joshua Shapiro, chief U.S. economist with research firm MFR Inc., said the ADP report indicates “we’re probably done with the job shedding. What remains to be seen is the rate of actual job creation that we’ll see once we get over that hump.”

 The report showed weakness across a range of sectors and businesses of all sizes. Large businesses, defined as those with 500 employees or more, shed 7,000 workers, while medium-size businesses, those with more than 50 but less than 500, lost 4,000 workers in March. Small businesses that employ fewer than 50 workers cut 12,000 jobs. Many smaller employers have had a tough time securing bank loans, and unlike larger companies are unable to access bond markets and other sources of financing.

 A separate report Wednesday from the Conference Board, a private research group, showed that online job ads fell 29,600 to 3.9 million in March. The dip followed three consecutive months of large increases, the group said.

 Financial services jobs fell 8,000. Manufacturers shed 9,000 jobs while private sector construction employment fell by 43,000 in March. That was the smallest drop in construction employment since July 2008, but about the same as a month earlier, when construction employment fell 44,000.

 A separate report Wednesday showed that orders to U.S. factories grew 0.6% to $383.5 billion in February, the Commerce Department said. The report showed broad-based increases and is the latest to show a strong rebound in manufacturing activity as producers of everything from chemicals to semiconductors rebound from their recession lows.

 Factory Orders Increase

Orders for non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft, a gauge of business spending, increased 2.0%. Orders for durable goods, which are items designed to last more than three years, increased 0.9% in February to $178.5 billion, the third consecutive monthly increase and up from the 0.5% that the Commerce Department previously reported. Orders for nondurables were up 0.3%. Manufacturers’ inventories rose 0.5%.

 Unfilled orders, which are a sign of future demand, increased 0.5% in February. Shipments of all factory goods dipped 0.1%, which could reflect delays caused by poor February weather. 

Write to Conor Dougherty at conor.dougherty@wsj.com and Jeff Bater at jeff.bater@dowjones.com

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