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Jobs Report: What Will April Say About the Recovery?

The Exchange

The monthly jobs report, already the most highly anticipated data of the month, will be getting a little extra attention this Friday after a disappointing report on GDP late last week and a weaker than expected private sector employment report on Wednesday.

It's not a question of whether the U.S. is adding and will continue to add jobs that is separating the bulls and the bears. It's a question of the rate at which the jobs growth is and will be accelerating.

Economists are expecting there were 162,000 new jobs created in April, up from 120,000 in March, and an unemployment rate that remains steady at 8.2%. But Goldman Sachs is expecting the U.S. added only 125,000 new jobs, on the bearish side, as the positive effects of a warm winter wear off.

With the addition of 120,00o jobs, March marked the 15th straight month of jobs growth, but it broke a three-month streak in which the economy had added more than 200,000 jobs. "This is the type of report that is more typical of an economy beginning to emerge from recession than one that has been growing for nearly three years," wrote Yahoo! Finance Economics Editor Daniel Gross.

Now we are only a couple days away from finding out whether "March's report was an anomaly or the beginning of a new, disappointing trend," to put it in Gross's words.

A not-so-promising sign: The private sector added only 119,000 jobs in April, down from a downwardly revised 201,000 in March and well short of the 170,000 anticipated, according to payroll company ADP. Granted, the private sector numbers haven't proven to be a reliable indicator of the government's payroll report.

All of this comes after growth turned out to be not quite as robust in early 2012 as in late 2011. The economy grew at a 2.2% annualized rate, down from 3% in the final quarter of 2011. But that was a mixed bag: Business investment was weaker, while consumer spending strengthened.

Some trends are clearly positive. According to the BLS, gross job gains exceeded gross job losses by 753,000 in the private sector during the third quarter of 2011, the last quarter for which these data are available. That marked the sixth straight quarter that gains exceeded losses, and the largest net job gain since the first quarter of 2006.

Heading into April, most areas were seeing a brighter employment picture than a year ago. According to a BLS report released on Wednesday, unemployment rates were lower in 342 of 372 metropolitan in March of this year vs. 2011. It varies considerably by area, with thirteen areas suffering an unemployment rate of least 15.0%, and 17 areas registering rates of less than 5%. (Looking to move to somewhere with a healthier job market? The lowest employment rate among the 49 metropolitan areas with a Census 2000 population of 1 million or more was in Oklahoma City, Okla. -- 4.4%.)

But like a public company, growth alone is not as celebrated as growth that is accelerating.

What do you think? Is the pace of recovery slowing? Or are you seeing more signs of lasting improvement?