United States payrolls rise 164000 while jobless rate falls to 3.9%

06 May, 2018, 00:06 | Author: Teresa Adams
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With a reported 3.9-percent unemployment rate, April became one of six months in almost 40 years when the figure fell below 4 percent.

Job growth amounted to a decent 164,000 last month, up from an upwardly revised 135,000 in March, the Labor Department said Friday. The unemployment rate fell to 3.9 percent, the lowest since 2000, from 4.1 percent, a point that President Donald Trump was quick to tweet. Alternative measures of wage growth have shown it growing at a slow and steady pace, and inflation has already in fact risen back to the Federal Reserve's 2 percent target.

With the unemployment rate falling to 3.9%, causing concern for employers about a labor shortage, companies may increasingly recruit workers who they have historically avoided. Consumers are also benefiting from higher after-tax income, which grew last month at the fastest pace in a year, aided by the tax cuts.

In a sign that employers are having a hard time finding qualified workers, average hourly earnings rose 2.6 percent from a year ago.

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"Factory orders have climbed in seven of the past eight months, and equipment spending, as reported in the gross domestic product report, has been supportive of topline growth in each of the past six quarters", said Tim Quinlan, senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities.

"We've continued to add jobs routinely every month for so long, and the unemployment rate we have reached is incredible".

A broader measure of unemployment, which includes people who want to work but have given up searching and those working part-time because they can not find full-time employment, dropped to 7.8 percent last month, the lowest level since July 2001, from 8.0 percent in March. Yet wage growth, the key number for stock market investors on edge about more Fed rate hikes, surprised on the downside, coming in at 2.6%.

In April, the number of private sector jobs rose by 168,000, while the number of government jobs slid by 4,000. But until recently, they haven't gained much, which has puzzled many economists. (The record to beat: nine months.) The streak defied the expectations of economists, who said the nation's prolonged hiring blitz - an average of 202,000 new positions each month in 2018 - was bound to drive the figure down. They account for 20 percent of people out of work.

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Within services, the sub-sectors with the biggest bursts in employment in April were: "professional and business services", +54,000 jobs; "education and health services", +31,000; and "leisure and hospitality", +18,000.

The unemployment rate fell in April because the labor force shrank: 236,000 Americans who were either working or looking for work dropped out of the job market. The unemployment rate for high-school dropouts rose slightly, to 5.8 percent.

The report indicates another month of solid job gains for an economy that has been expanding for nearly nine years.

All this said, the 0.2 percent decline in America's unemployment rate between March and April isn't unambiguously good news.

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