The labor market's "trouble exists not on the layoff side but on the hiring side,"
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The labor market's "trouble exists not on the layoff side but on the hiring side," said Stephen Stanley, an economist with Pierpont Securities.
Managers may be reluctant to hire because they're concerned about a slowing global economy and the durability of U.S. consumer demand. Businesses are also managing to produce more with their existing workforces.
The productivity of U.S. workers rose in the first three months of the year, a separate Labor Department report said. Nonfarm productivity, defined as output per hour of all workers, rose at a 0.7% annual rate because output gains outpaced a smaller increase in hours worked.
In the short term, rising productivity can allow employers to get more out of their current workforce, putting off a need to hire. Unemployment remained elevated in March at 7.6%, and is expected to stay at that level in April.
The Labor Department releases its major jobs report and unemployment tally on Friday. Federal Reserve officials said Wednesday that labor market conditions "have shown some improvement in recent months."
Economists and financial markets will look to see whether companies accelerated hiring after adding just 88,000 jobs in March. Forecasters say the U.S. likely added 148,000 jobs in April.