Popular Economics Weekly
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported today that total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 263,000 in April, and the unemployment rate declined to 3.6 percent. It was the lowest unemployment rate in 49 years—since December 1969.
A major reason for the rate drop was almost 500,000 fewer workers were available for work in the Household Survey, shrinking the labor pool, even though job hirings were up in the seasonally adjusted Establishment Survey that reports actual payroll numbers. Notable job gains occurred in professional and business services, construction, health care, and social assistance.
The fact that nonfarm payroll employment increased by 263,000 in April, compared with an average monthly gain of 213,000 over the prior 12 months showed that Fed Chairman Powell and his Board of Governors were correct in not signaling a rate drop anytime soon; maybe not for the rest of the year.
The BLS reported professional and business services added 76,000 jobs in April, with gains in administrative and support services (+53,000) and in computer systems design and related services (+14,000). Over the past 12 months, professional and business services has added 535,000 jobs, a sign that IT services continued to grow.
And construction, hence the real estate industry also showed strong growth, with construction employment up by 33,000, including gains in nonresidential specialty trade contractors (+22,000) and in heavy and civil engineering construction (+10,000). Construction has added 256,000 jobs over the past 12 months.
Employment in health care grew by 27,000 in April and 404,000 over the past 12 months. In April, job growth occurred in ambulatory health care services (+17,000), hospitals (+8,000), and community care facilities for the elderly (+7,000).
This means the just reported 3.2 percent jump in Q1 GDP growth was no fluke, though manufacturers added a mere 4,000 jobs after no increase in March. Factory hiring has been very weak this year as companies struggle with stagnant exports and the effects of U.S. trade tensions with China.
Government jobs rose by 27,000, a good thing, as government activity has an important part in maintaining public services. The federal government is already starting to hire workers for the 2020 Census, said the Census Bureau. Retailers, on the other hand, cut 12,000 jobs as traditional brands continue to lose ground to internet rivals.
But although the economy is still pumping out plenty of new jobs, the rate of hiring has slowed. The U.S. added an average of 169,000 jobs in the past three months, down from a three-year high of 232,000 in January, But that may be a fluke due to the December government shutdown.
So full economic speed ahead, if no more shutdowns! There are still more than 1 million job openings, according to the Labor Department’s JOLTS report, and the U.S. is the world’s largest economy because it actually churns out more than 5 million new jobs per month.
This also gives the Trump administration more incentive to settle its various trade battles, if it wants to look good in next year’s election.
Harlan Green © 2019
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