Employers hired fewer workers than expected in March, and a slump in the size of the work force pushed the jobless rate down to the lowest level since 2008, according to the Labor Department. Even though tempered hiring and budget cuts are clouding the economic outlook, one can look at one sector in particular that seems to have the wind behind its back: construction.
Low mortgage rates continue to drive the housing market, which in turn, is putting a lot of construction workers on job sites. According to the Labor of Bureau Statistics, there more than 7.7-million construction workers were receiving paychecks at the sector's peak in January, 2007. After that point, pink slips were handed out until the beginning of 2011, when hiring picked up again. As of now, the group is still hiring with no signs of stopping. Housing-related stocks, including Toll Brothers (TOL) and Home Depot (HD), are rising along with the workforce.
The retail industry has been booming, but took a hit this month. The sector shed 24,000 jobs, possibly an effect of the payroll-tax hike that was part of the "fiscal cliff" settlement at the beginning of the year.
The sector with the most job cuts this year is by far the government sector. Government payrolls are shrinking as budget cuts, otherwise known as the sequester, take shape. March is the first month since those cuts were made. Sudeep Reddy, economic reporter at the Wall Street Journal, says the cuts in the public-sector workforce marks the deepest retrenchment in government jobs since just after World War II.