The spring thaw continues, at least judging by the data issued earlier this morning on job creation and the unemployment rate. To wit, the nation added a stellar 288,000 jobs in April, which was well above the consensus forecast of 215,000 new positions and was the best showing by this critical metric since January of 2012. Also encouraging was the fact that the unemployment rate plunged from 6.7% to 6.3%. A slight easing to 6.6% had been the expectation.
Almost every part of this report was positive, including the latest revisions, which included an upward adjustment in March payroll creation from 192,000 to 203,000, and one in the February numbers, which went from 197,000 to 222,000.
Meanwhile, average weekly hours worked held steady at 34.5, but were up from February, when they were at 34.3. The lower level two months ago was perhaps occasioned by weather problems, which had loomed quite large during the winter. Also, earnings per hour increased from $20.47 to $20.50, after having dipped by two cents an hour in March.
And private sector job creation strengthened, going from 202,000 in March to 273,000 last month. This meant that the government, which had been laying off workers for many months, is starting to hire again, having added 15,000 positions last month.
Among the industries adding workers in April, we saw a notable growth in jobs in the services sector, as well as in manufacturing, retailing, construction, and wholesale trade.
As to other parts of the report, we saw the number of long-term unemployed, that is those out of work for 27 weeks, or longer, decline by 287,000 in April, to 3.5 million. Over the past 12 months, the number of long-term unemployed has fallen by almost a million individuals.
Finally, the civilian labor force dropped by 806,000 in April, following an increase of 503,000 in March. The labor force participation rate, unfortunately, fell by 0.4% to 62.8, suggesting many discouraged workers are still leaving the labor force. The participation rate had shown no clear trend in recent months, however, and is now back where it was this past October.
Looked at as a whole, though, this was a strong and reassuring report from a politically sensitive sector. The better aggregate tone here also has positive ramifications for some other key areas, such as housing and consumer spending. The better employment outlook also could well influence the Federal Reserve to perhaps step up the pace of its bond tapering or have an impact on when the lead bank opts to start increasing interest rates.
At the time of this article's writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.