Government officials at the U.S. Department of Labor announced an upswing in employment through the month of March, providing a stark contrast from the relatively disappointing figures announced in February.
According to the department's monthly Employment Situation Report, approximately 196,000 non-farm payroll positions were filled last month. The Bureau of Labor Statistics said healthcare positions saw the largest gains, along with professional and technical services.
The March job figures shows a massive increase compared to February, which had a total non-farm payroll employment increase of just 33,000.
Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta said the increases are a strong indicator of a growing economy.
"The March jobs report exceeded expectations," he said. "Adding upward revisions of 14,000 jobs from the past two months means that more than 5.1 million jobs have been created since January 2017."
Department figures also show that "employment growth averaged approximately 180,000 new jobs per month in the first quarter of 2019." Last year, that same time period saw average increases of approximately 223,000 per month.
Job growth by industry
While the monthly jobs report takes a macro approach to gauging the country's employment situation, it also investigates which industries saw the biggest increases.
As previously mentioned, the healthcare industry saw a large increase in employment, with roughly 49,000 jobs filled in March and 398,000 year to year. Last month's figures break down even further, with ambulatory healthcare services getting 27,000 more jobs, hospitals getting 14,000, and nursing and residential care facilities getting 9,000.
Last month, food services and drinking establishments saw job increases of 27,000. Officials said the increase continued a trend of monthly gains over the last year. Construction jobs only slightly increased with 16,000 new jobs, but officials pointed out that approximately 246,000 construction jobs were added over the last 12 months.
Along with manufacturing jobs, which saw marginal increases for the second month in a row, industries like mining, wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, and government also only saw slight increases.
More time on the clock, less unemployment
According to last month's figures, the average American employee saw their average workweek lengthen by 0.1 hour, raising the national average to 34.5 hours. The longer work hours in March counteracted the 0.1-hour loss in February.
"American workers are increasing their productivity, and paychecks are rising," Acosta said.
In addition to more work hours, officials said the average hourly earnings for private non-farm employees increased by 4 cents to $27.70. This increase follows the 10-cent gain reported in February. Over the last year, officials said average hourly earnings went up by 3.2%.
While employment and wage figures show a monthly increase, officials recently announced a decrease in initial unemployment claims.
According to the Department of Labor, seasonally adjusted initial claims for the week ending on March 30 were 202,000, marking a decrease of 10,000 from the previous week. Officials said that week's figures were "the lowest level for initial claims since Dec. 6, 1969."
Looking at data for the week that ended on March 16, the department shared the states with the highest unemployment rates, as well as those with the largest increases.
The latest data suggests that Alaska has the highest unemployment rate in the country at 3%, with New Jersey (2.6%), Connecticut (2.5%), Rhode Island (2.5%) and Montana (2.4%) following. California, Pennsylvania and Illinois are also on the high-unemployment list.
The states with the largest increases in initial claims for the week ending on March 23 include Texas (+2,802), Arkansas (+821), Maryland (+330), Missouri (+324) and New Mexico (+160). The largest decreases were seen in California (-1,296), Pennsylvania (-1,181), Oklahoma (-1,097), Wisconsin (-583) and Ohio (-468).