Cornell University

April 9 2012

Job Data Analyzed

Labor force shrinks, but length of unemployment shortens, Barrington says

The modest trend in shorter unemployment periods continued in March job numbers released Friday, said Linda Barrington, managing director of ILR's Institute for Compensation Studied.

Overall, though, new job data from the U.S. Labor Department was "not encouraging," she said.

The unemployment rate edged down from 8.3% to 8.2%, but the total size of the U.S. labor force shrunk after two months of rebuilding, Barrington said.

The gain in employment in March was 120,000 jobs, the smallest over-the-month gain since October, Barrington said. More than 12 million people remain unemployed in the United States.

Trends emerging from unemployment, she said, include:

  • Average (mean) and median duration (number of weeks) of unemployment continues to gently improve (shorten).
  • Those unemployed due to involuntary loss of a job continue to make up a smaller share of the ranks of the unemployed, but they still comprise the majority of unemployed workers.
  • New entrants to the labor force and those who voluntarily quit a job continue to make up a growing share of the unemployed.