US Adds Robust 263,000 Jobs; Unemployment Hits 49-Year Low

May 3, 2019 by Dan McCue

U.S. employers added a robust 263,000 jobs in April, helping to push the unemployment rate to a five-decade low of 3.6 percent, the Labor Department said Friday.

The latest report from the government suggests that continued economic growth is encouraging employers to add staff.

The last time the U.S. unemployment rate was this low was in December 1969, when it hit 3.5 percent.

Gad Levanon, chief economist, North America, for The Conference Board, a Washington, D.C. think tank, said Friday’s report was reflective of a trend in the past month in which most economic releases came out better than expected.

This suggests, “the US economy will continue to grow above its long-term two percent trend through at least the end of the year, with low near-term recession risks,” Levanon said. “Friday’s report strengthens this point of view.

“The strong recovery in temporary-help employment, one of the best leading indicators of the labor market, further reduces the risk of an employment slowdown,” the economist continued.
“In such an economic environment, and considering the stagnation in working-age population growth, it is not surprising that the labor market continues to tighten…Labor markets will continue tightening in coming months and wages are likely to accelerate further.”

While last month’s decline in the jobless rate came with strong increase in hiring, it also was helped along by a sharp decline in the labor force of 490,000. That brought the labor force participation rate down to 62.8 percent, just about where it was last year at this time.

At the same time, the Labor Department said, average hourly pay across the United States rose 3.2 percent in April compared to 12 months earlier.

Professional and business services led job creation with 76,000 new positions. Construction added 33,000, bringing to 256,000 the total new jobs created in the field over the past year.

Health care rose by 27,000, bringing its 12-month total to 404,000, while financial positions increased by 12,000.

Social assistance increased by 26,000, and manufacturing added 4,000.

However, retail saw a loss of 12,000 jobs.

While, retail aside, the numbers are good from job seekers, many employers say they are struggling to find workers. That’s one factor pushing up pay. It’s also inspiring employers to hire more entry-level workers and train them for jobs.

Overall, the nation’s economy looks a whole lot rosier than it did five months ago, when Washington was mired in the partial government shutdown, trade tensions between the U.S. and China were raging, and the stock market was in free fall.

Over the winter, the trade negotiations with China made incremental progress, and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell announced the Fed would hold off on interest rates hikes, after imposing four increases last year.

Those improving conditions inspired consumers and businesses to spend more, and in the end the U.S. economy grew at a 3.2 percent annual rate in the first quarter.

Earlier this week, as Powell promised, the Federal Reserve held the line on its benchmark interest rate, characterizing economic growth as solid even as inflation remains tame.

The current economic expansion is poised to become the longest in history in July.

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