Seven times as many Americans gave up looking for work as found new jobs in March, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Only 88,000 new jobs were created in March, while roughly 630,000 Americans gave up looking for jobs, leaving 11.7 million Americans waiting in unemployment lines.
“This is a punch to the gut,” said Austan Goolsbee, President Barack Obama’s former economic adviser. “This is not a good number,” he told a CNBC interviewer.
The labor force fell by 496,000 workers from the previous month’s number, helping to drag down the formal unemployment rate to 7.6 percent.
The unemployment number only includes Americans who have actively looked for jobs during the last four weeks. The unemployment rate would be 11 percent if the 11.7 million Americans who have given up looking for work since January 2009 were recognized as unemployed.
However, 4.6 million of the 11.7 million Americans who are still looking for work have not been employed for 27 weeks.
“This is lowest workforce participation rate since 1979,” said a statement from Rep. Eric Cantor, the GOP’s majority leader in the House. “Sadly, people are simply giving up, and losing hope.”
“The president’s policies continue to make it harder for Americans to find work,” said a statement from House Majority Leader John Boehner’s office.
“Republicans passed a balanced budget that addresses our spending problem, unleashes North American energy like Keystone, and fixes our broken tax code, and voted to replace the president’s sequester with smarter cuts and reforms,” he said.
GOP advocates say the slowdown is partly caused by Obama’s sprawling health-care law, which will require employers to provide expensive health-care benefits to workers starting January 2014.
The 2014 costs, however, are determined by companies’ 2013 payrolls.
Many companies are reducing their full-time employment rolls, and instead are using part-time workers.
Roughly 7.6 million Americans are working part-time, but would rather have full-time jobs.
The much-touted sequester had little role impact on the disappointing number. Government agencies added 9,000 jobs around the country, aside from the U.S Post Office, which shed 12,000 workers as business has dropped.
The 88,000 new jobs are much less than the normal growth of the workforce.
Each month, the workforce grows by roughly 150,000, as older workers quit and are replaced by a larger number of younger Americans and immigrants.
Of the extra 150,000 workers, roughly 90,000 are Americans entering the workforce, and roughly 60,000 are working-age immigrants.
The number of imported workers may rise if Obama, progressive leaders and business lobbyists persuade Congress to pass an immigration bill.
The draft Senate immigration immigration bill contains provisions that would boost the number of imported seasonal and permanent foreign workers to 1 million per year and provide an amnesty to 7 million illegal immigrants that would let them compete directly against the roughly 20 million unemployed or underemployed Americans.