U.S. jobless rate falls to lowest level in a decade at 4.4%, job growth still moderate

by Wesley Brown ([email protected]) 250 views 

The U.S. economy added another 211,000 jobs in April as the nation’s jobless rate edged down to the lowest level in nearly a decade at 4.4%, according to data released Friday (May 5) by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The unemployment rate, one percentage below March’s 4.5%, and the number of unemployed persons, at 7.1 million, changed little in April. Over the year, the unemployment rate has declined by six percentage points, and the number of unemployed has fallen by 854,000. The last time the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 4.4% was in May 2007. A year ago, the U.S. jobless rate was topped out at 5% in March and April and has remained below that level now for 12 straight months.

The “U-6” jobless rate, which includes those “marginally” attached to the labor force and person employed part-time but seek full-time work, was 8.6%, down from 9.3% in April 2016 and down from 8.9% in March. Some economists point to the U-6 number as a better measure of the economy with respect to jobs.

Two weeks ago, Arkansas’ jobless rate for March slid to a new all-time low at 3.6%, down from 3.7% in January and better than the 4.1% in March 2016. Arkansas’ labor force pool rose by 4,305 to 1.341 million in March and the number of employed was an estimated 1,292,574, up 2,094 positions from a year ago. The number of unemployed in Arkansas totaled 48,609 in March, well below the 54,963 in March 2016.

The U.S. employment picture largely mirrors the widely-watch ADP National Employment Report released on Tuesday that shows 177,000 private sector jobs were added to the nation’s economy from March to April. The moderate growth in April was well off the 263,000 jobs added in the previous month.

Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, said the soft job market in April represented a continued downturn in the retail sector, which has announced several layoffs in the first quarter of 2017.

“Job growth slowed in April due to a pullback in construction and retail jobs. The softness in construction is continued payback from outsized growth during the mild winter,” Zandi said. “Brick-and-mortar retailers cut jobs in response to withering competition from online merchants.”

Nationwide, among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate for adult men declined to 4% in April. The jobless rates for adult women (4.1%), teenagers (14.7%), Whites (3.8%, Blacks (7.9%), Asians (3.2%), and Hispanics (5.2%) showed little change. The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was essentially unchanged at 1.6 million in April and was 22.6% of the unemployed. Over the year, the number of long-term unemployed was down by 433,000.

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 211,000 in April. Employment rose in leisure and hospitality, health care and social assistance, financial activities, and mining. In April, leisure and hospitality added 55,000 jobs. Employment in food services and drinking places continued to trend up over the month (+26,000) and has increased by 260,000 over the year.

Employment in health care and social assistance increased by 37,000 in April. Health care employment continued to trend up over the month at 20,000. This is in line with the industry’s average monthly job growth during the first quarter of this year but below the average gain of 32,000 per month in 2016.

For the month, financial activities added 19,000 jobs, with insurance carriers and related activities accounting for most of the gain with 14,000 new jobs. Over the year, financial activities have added 173,000 jobs.

Employment in the mining sector, which includes the oil and gas industry, rose by 9,000 in April, with most of the increase in support activities with 7,000 job adds. Since a recent low in October 2016, mining has added 44,000 jobs.

Hiring in professional and business services continued to trend up in April at 39,000. The industry has added 612,000 jobs over the past 12 months. Employment in other major industries, including construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, retail trade, transportation and warehousing, information, and government, showed little change over the month.

The average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased by 0.1 hour to 34.4 hours in April. During the month, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 7 cents to $26.19. Over the year, average hourly earnings have risen by 65 cents, or 2.5%.