Job Market Roars to LIfe in March

April 2, 2004 ( - In an area of the domestic economy that has been particularly hard hit by the recent recession and bearish investment climate - the long-slumbering U.S. job market - there was finally some surprisingly good news Friday in a government report.

The U.S. Department of Labor (DoL) reported a stunning 308,000 non-farm payroll gain in March – the largest jump in four years and just a tick under three times the 103,000-job hike Wall Street economists had predicted from Friday’s monthly employment data.

Two factors helping to boost the job numbers: the resolution of a strike at grocery stores in southern California that had idled 72,000 workers as well as the fact that construction hiring bounced back due to better weather in many areas of the country.

The March unemployment rate also bumped up to 5.7% from the two-year low of 5.6% in January and February (See  New February Private-Sector Jobs : Zero ).

Friday’s report showed job gains were widespread across industries. While a long-hoped for rise in manufacturing employment didn’t show up, at least the numbers didn’t go down. The DoL said March factory payrolls were unchanged, finally breaking a string of 43 consecutive monthly declines.