After several months of growth, U.S. hiring shifted into a relative holding pattern in March. The unemployment rate remained essentially unchanged at 8.2 percent as private employers added 121,000 new jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' monthly jobs report released today.
The numbers disappointed economists and other analysts who had expected to see a bigger increase based on recent hiring trends. That didn't happen. In March, the number of people who weren't working but wanted to also held steady, at 12.7 million. The long-term unemployed -- people who've been without jobs for 27 weeks or more -- remained even at 5.3 million.
Midife and older workers fared slightly better. The jobless rate for people 45 and older dipped, to 6.5 percent in March from 6.6 percent the previous month. Last month, approximately 4.4 million Americans 45 and older were unemployed, down from 4.7 million a year ago and 5.2 million in 2010 at the height of the recession.
U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis put an encouraging spin on the numbers, saying that some months are better than others, but overall, "Our economy is growing, and our recovery is durable."
In The Washington Post, writer Brad Plumer points out that a broader indicator of employment trends also had improved. The U-6 metric, which takes into account numbers for all unemployed persons -- plus people marginally attached to the labor force, and those employed part-time for economic reasons -- dropped to 14.5 percent in March from 14.9 percent the previous month. "Anyone trying to dig for optimistic signs should start there," Plumer says.
JOBS Act Approved: March unemployment numbers came out one day after President Obama signed the law meant to help U.S. entrepreneurs grow their businesses -- and hire more people -- by reducing regulatory barriers. The Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act includes a crowdfunding measure that would let companies raise up to $1 million a year through small-dollar investments from crowdfunding websites. The Securities and Exchange Commission has nine months to implement the new rules. Tanya Prive, founder of a social network for entrepreneurs, tells Forbes blogger Heather Human in this post that small-business owners should use the time to prepare. Put a business plan in place, do market research, make a video and then start building up a list of contacts from your business network you can use to crowdsource funds. "We found that the initial 30 to 40 percent of activity actually comes from the user's network," Prive says. Over at Entrepreneur.com, Catherine Clifford offers this helpful piece: The JOBS Act: What You Need To Know.
Pinboard Enthusiasm Explodes: If you've heard more friends talk about the relatively new image-sharing website recently, there's a reason. Last month Pinterest overtook Tumblr, Google+ and LinkedIn to become the third-largest social network, according to a report this week from information services company Experian. Traffic to the site jumped 50 percent in February from the previous month, and unique visitors increased to 17.8 million, according to Business Insider. Pinterest lets "pinners" share interesting images and links to other online content they've found with their followers. Here are SecondAct's Pinterest boards, including the Get a Job board.
The Push for Age-Friendly Cities: The World Health Organization (WHO) and AARP have teamed up to promote initiatives in seven states to help residents stay active and mobile in their communities as they age. These efforts are needed, according to AARP, because 19.7 percent of the U.S. population will be 65 or older by 2030. The organizations are working with government officials, businesses and other community leaders in Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, New York, Oregon and Pennsylvania, as well as the District of Columbia, to identify cities or towns that want to improve their physical and social environments to be more age-friendly. Communities will have access to WHO resources and can draw from the experiences of 50 cities, such as New York and Portland, already working with WHO to become more hospitable to residents of all ages.
All Ages Adopting a Lower-Car Lifestyle: For the first time since World War II, Americans are driving less. Vehicle miles traveled per capita dropped 6 percent between 2004 and 2011, according to a report from the Colorado Public Interest Research Group released Thursday. Although 16- to 34-year-olds are leading the shift in driving habits, more midlife adults are adapting to lives that are less dependent on four-wheel transportation. In a separate study cited in the Colorado report, 31 percent of 41- to 54-year-olds reported to have made a "strong" or "somewhat strong" effort to reduce their driving and increase use of public transportation. In other research included in the report, 51 percent of 40- to 49-year-olds said they preferred to live in "smart growth" areas; 19 percent said living in walking-friendly neighborhoods was important; and 16 percent said that living close to bus and rail lines was very important. One goal of the AARP/WHO age-friendly initiative is to support more widespread public transportation, and these studies indicate that's already happening.
What America Spends: The average U.S. household spends about the same amount of the family budget on recreation -- music, movies, books, pets and other forms of entertainment -- today as in 1949. It's about the only household cost that's held steady over the years, according to an NPR evaluation of Americans' spending habits based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data from December 2011. In 1949, American families' biggest expense was food, which gobbled up 40 percent of their budget, followed by housing (26.1 percent), clothing (11.7 percent), transportation (7.3 percent), recreation (5 percent), medical care (3.2 percent) and other expenses (6.7 percent). Today, high real estate prices -- despite the recent decline in the market -- mean housing constitutes 41 percent of U.S. households' budgets. It's followed by transportation (16.9 percent), food (15.3 percent), other expenses (10.2 percent), medical care (7.1 percent), recreation (6 percent) and clothing (3.6 percent).
Botox Turns 10: The Food and Drug Administration first approved use of onabotulinumtoxinA, a bacteria derived from the same toxin that causes botulism, for cosmetic purposes in April 2002. Eleven million treatments later, the typical Botox patient is a highly educated woman in her 40s, according to Allergan, which makes the drug. Sixty-three percent of Botox users have college or postgraduate degrees, 75 percent work full- or part-time and 64 percent are married.
Last Word: "I would love to buy another BMW someday, but right now I'm a single dad with a minivan." -- Singer Kenny Loggins, talking with Bankrate about his frugal lifestyle