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263K New Jobs in April, Unemployment Dips to 3.6%!

Mark Vickery

Friday, May 3, 2019

April non-farm payrolls, as reported monthly by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), outperformed expectations by roughly 50,000 jobs: 263K was the headline number, also way up from the downwardly-revised 189K in March. The Unemployment Rate, which had remained at an historically low 3.8% for the past two months, fell even further, to 3.6% in April.

These are great numbers, complete with an Unemployment Rate we haven’t seen since Sean Connery was still portraying James Bond (December, 1969). Want more good news? The most recent weak figure in BLS payrolls was February, but revisions this morning are to the upside: 56K jobs (following the 5-week government shutdown) is up considerably from the 33K last reported.

If we need to quibble here, look at things like Average Hourly Earnings, which grew at an expected 0.2% in April, bringing us to 3.2% year over year. This is an improvement over the +0.1% wage growth reported in March, but with 263K new jobs coming into an already tight jobs market that has built over the past several years, historically one would expect wages to surge.

But this has either yet to happen or simply won’t. Labor Force Participation ticked down 20 basis points to 62.8%, again not a great figure considering the robust job growth we’re experiencing in our headline figures.

By industry, Professional/Business Services brought a huge number last month: 76K, followed by continued strength in Construction (+33K) and Healthcare (+27K). Yet we did see some sectors lose jobs in April, led by a third straight month of declines in Retail (-13K). Mining also was down (-3K) as well as Motor Vehicles/Parts (-1.5K).

The fall-off in Retail, the longer it continues, will likely draw more scrutiny, especially regarding how much shopping in the U.S. is done online as opposed to in-store. But apparently, these jobs are being more than made up in other areas — and at wages that are scarcely higher.

This is all excellent news for the overall U.S. economy. Futures in the pre-market are in the green, looking to make fresh new all-time highs. Analysts still hold out hope that wage growth will one day follow, but there is a growing sense that the domestic labor market is currently experiencing a “new normal.”

Mark Vickery
Senior Editor

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