The Labor Department reported that the overall unemployment rate remained unchanged in March at 5.8 percent, but “the erosion of strength in our critical manufacturing sector continued,” said David Huether, chief economist for the National Association of Manufacturers.
“While the overall unemployment rate remained steady, nonfarm payroll employment declined by 108,000 in March and another 36,000 manufacturing jobs disappeared,” Huether said. “After a revised 357,000 job loss in February, last month's 108,000 decline clearly shows that economic activity continued to wane in the final month of the first quarter.
“There can be no question that the conflict in the Iraq was a major factor in the employment drop last month,” Huether said. “Concern about developments abroad is quite understandably affecting economic decisions.
“If people aren't buying durable goods from retailers, industry doesn't make them,” Huether said. “Employment in durable goods manufacturing also dropped in March by 29,000, reflecting increased anxiety that is continuing to dampen business investment demand.Together, these sectors accounted for nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of the employment decline last month.”