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U.S. Added 263,000 Jobs in April; Unemployment Rate at 3.6%

by Nelson D. Schwartz - 05/03/2019
U.S. Added 263,000 Jobs in April; Unemployment Rate at 3.6%
The economy produced another strong month of growth, and the jobless rate fell to the lowest level of the recovery.

The Labor Department released the April data on hiring and unemployment on Friday morning, providing an up-to-the-minute snapshot of the economy.

The Numbers

263,000 jobs were created last month. Analysts had expected a gain of 190,000 jobs, according to Bloomberg.

The unemployment rate was 3.6 percent, the lowest in half a century. The rate was 3.8 percent in March.

Average hourly earnings rose by 0.2 percent, which follows an increase of 0.1 percent in March. Over the last 12 months, earnings have risen by a healthy 3.2 percent, a hair’s breadth from the best level of the recovery.

The Takeaway
Employers added 263,000 jobs last month, underscoring the economy’s resilience after some analysts had feared earlier in the year that a slowdown was coming. The latest data suggest that the economy is showing robust growth, and provides a talking point for Republicans and President Trump as the 2020 presidential campaign nears.

Payrolls have now risen for 104 quarters in a row, and the economy has created more than 20 million jobs since the Great Recession ended in 2009. Hiring data for March was revised down slightly, while February’s weak 33,000 reading was revised to 56,000.

“It’s much more exciting than anyone had expected,” said Torsten Slok, chief international economist at Deutsche Bank. “No matter how you slice and dice this, it looks like the economy is doing fine.”

Earlier in the year, analysts were worried about headwinds like a slowdown in Europe, the trade war with China and Brexit. This report should put those fears to bed — at least for the time being.

“It doesn’t mean these risks are gone, but it seems like the economy is rebounding from the turbulence of the first quarter,” Mr. Slok said.

As good as the dip in the unemployment rate looks, the factors behind it aren’t as hopeful as the headline number itself. There was a big drop in the number of people who said they were looking for work. The labor-force participation rate, which measures the share of people 16 and older who are employed or seeking a job, fell to 62.8 percent, from 63 percent in March.

“The drop in the unemployment rate was encouraging, but it was for bad reasons,” said Michelle Meyer, head of United States economics at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. “The lower participation rate is a little bit of a disappointment but it’s a volatile number.”

One-time factors may have stimulated hiring in some parts of the economy. Gregory Daco, chief United States economist at Oxford Economics, noted that the 34,000 increase in leisure and hospitality jobs might suggest that restaurants and hotels were staffing up earlier in the month for Easter, which fell late in the month.
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