The US economy added 192,000 jobs in March, according to new numbers released Friday by the Department of Labor (DoL). The unemployment rate remained steady at 6.7 percent.
The number of jobs created last month was an improvement on the more moderate job gains seen in recent months—113,000 in January, and 175,000 in February. And even those numbers were revised upwards in March by a total of 37,000 jobs.
The portion of Americans who either had jobs or were looking for jobs—this is called the labor force participation rate—ticked up to 63.2 percent after a half-million Americans began looking for work again last month. And the number of long-term unemployed—those Americans who have been jobless for 27 weeks or more—has fallen by 837,000 since last year.
Economists predict that the positive March jobs numbers mean that the Federal Reserve, the US central bank that sets monetary policy, will likely continue to pull back on the massive economic stimulus measures it put into effect in September 2012.
Now for the sour news. The number of jobs added to the economy last month was still fewer than many economists had expected. "Everybody who said 'ah we finally turned the corner, we're going to be booming like crazy'—I think they're going to have to hold off for a few months," Austan Goolsbee, President Barack Obama's former top economic adviser, said on CNBC Friday.
And the jobs gained last month are not necessarily good middle-class jobs. The professional services sector posted the largest gains in March, but of the 57,000 new jobs added, most were in temp work. Food services added 30,000 jobs. The healthcare sector took on 19,000 jobs, and construction added 19,000.
The disparities in unemployment by race changed little in March. The jobless rate was 5.8 percent for whites, 12.4 percent for blacks, 7.9 percent for Hispanics, and 5.4 percent for Asians.
The Los Angeles Police Department attempted to bury a case of sexual assault involving two of its officers, even telling the victim not to seek legal counsel after she came forward, according to a recent lawsuit filed in a California federal court. The suit alleges that the officers were reported for sexual assault by at least three other women between 2009 and 2012, but they remained on the job until 2013.
In September 2009, Tara McMahon, then 20, was arrested on drug charges by LAPD narcotics officers Luis Valenzuela and James Nichols; in the following months, she alleges in a legal complaint that was filed in late March, the two officers continued to contact and harass her. Toward the end of the year, McMahon says she was walking her dog in Hollywood when Valenzuela and Nichols pulled up beside her and ordered her inside their car. Valenzuela then drove to a secluded spot, and forced McMahon to perform oral sex on him in the back of the car while Nichols sat in the front seat, the complaint alleges. "If you don't suck my dick, you're going to jail," Valenzuela told McMahon, according to a search warrant filed by an investigator involved in an ongoing LA County criminal investigation of the men. The officers threatened McMahon with jail if she told anyone about the incident, according to the complaint. McMahon alleges that the officers also tried to buy her a ticket to Las Vegas, if she promised not to come back to LA.
On Thursday, New York McDonald's workers will stage a protest for better pay. It's the latest effort in what has become a national movement aimed at increasing fast food wages—which average $8.69 an hour—to $15 an hour. The odds are steep, because the restaurant industry is dead set against it. A new report released Thursday details just how much power the restaurant lobby wields in Washington.
The National Restaurant Association (the other NRA), which lobbies on behalf of the $600 billion industry, has been fighting minimum wage hikes, paid sick leave, and food safety rules for decades. But over the course of the slow economic recovery, which has been characterized by a disproportionate increase in low-wage service sector jobs, the NRA sharpened its knives, more than doubling its lobbying force on the Hill. Between 2008 and 2013, the number of NRA lobbyists pushing the industry's interests in Washington jumped from 15 to 37, according to the report, which was put together by the Alliance for a Just Society (AJS), a network of social justice organizations, and Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROCUnited), an organization that pushes for better conditions for food workers.
"The NRA has super-sized its investment in insider influence since 2008," the report notes.
In addition to the lobbyists working on behalf of the NRA, nine of the association's biggest members—including McDonald’s, Marriott, Walt Disney, and YUM! Brands—were represented in Washington by another 127 registered lobbyists in 2013, according to the report. That's up from 56 in 1998.
The NRA, which represents 52,000 member companies, including KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut, has spent $2.2 million on lobbying since November 2012, and over $400,000 in campaign contributions, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Today, fast food workers in New York will attempt to counter that money with protest signs. And congressional Dems, including Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), and House minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), will hold a "Give America a Raise" rally on the Hill.
On Tuesday afternoon, President Barack Obama announced in a speech at the White House that more Americans than predicted had signed up for health coverage through the insurance exchanges during the first six months of enrollment. "7.1 million Americans have now signed up for private insurance plans through these marketplaces," the president said. "Seven point one. Yep." And Obama slammed Republicans who haven't let up trying to gut the law. "This law is doing what it's supposed to do," he said. "It's helping people from coast to coast, all of which makes the lengths to which critics have gone to scare people or undermine the law or try to repeal the law without offering any plausible alternative so hard to understand.... The debate over repealing this law is over," Obama added. "The Affordable Care Act is here to stay." Watch:
Last week, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), a huge Obamacare foe, took to Facebook to ask Americans how the president's healthcare law is treating them. But the responses he received didn't line up with his own claim that "millions of people... are hurting because of Obamacare." When Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) made a similar call for Obamacare fail stories, he had bad luck too. Perhaps they shouldn't have been surprised. This week, support for the Affordable Care Act hit a new high of 49 percent. And on Tuesday, following the deadline for Americans to enroll in health insurance on the exchanges during the first six month window, the administration announced it is on track to achieve its original goal of providing coverage to 7 million Americans.
Here is Cruz's call for Obamacare tales:
Here are some of the responses. (There are 47,904, so I couldn't read them all, but of the first few dozen, only one response was negative.)