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US Employment Situation Improves Slowly but Surely

May 7, 2021 by Victoria Turner
A man walks out of a Marc's Store in Mayfield Heights, Ohio. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

With the US unemployment rate essentially unchanged from March to April from 6.0% to 6.1% respectively, the American state of employment seems to continue on its positive track, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics latest report

Employment in nonfarm jobs increased by 266,000 in April, but still remains 5.4% lower than its pre-pandemic numbers – 8.2 million less than February 2020. Even though the long-term unemployed also remained almost unchanged in April, with 4.2 million of these individuals accounting for 43% of all unemployed, the “employment-population” rose by 0.5% since December 2020. 

The report suggests more workers may be starting to return to some level of normalcy with employees beginning to return to their place of work. According to the report, the numbers of teleworking employees decreased in April by 2.7% since March. 

The most “notable” increase in employment happened in the leisure and hospitality industry, with an increase of 331,000 jobs in April. Despite employment in this industry rising by 5.4 million jobs in the last year, however, it is a 16.8% decrease from February 2020. There are still 2.8 million less jobs than the pre-pandemic levels in this industry. Nevertheless, this also indicates another beginning to a return to normalcy as the industry’s sector for food services and drinking establishments experienced the highest gains with an increase of 187,000 jobs since March. The sectors for amusements, gambling and recreation and that of accommodation also increased by 73,000 and 54,000 jobs, respectively. 

The other two industries that experienced job gains were “other services” – like the repair and maintenance sector, personal and laundry services, and others – with a 44,000 jobs gain, and an increase in local government education employment. The latter experienced a hike of 31,000 jobs last month, with federal government employment jobs accounting for 9,000 of this industry’s increase. Social assistance services jobs also experienced a 23,000 job increase, and the majority of these – 12,000 – were in child daycare services. 

Despite these overall increases, the report noted the job gains were “offset” by declines in the private service-providing industry, particularly the private and business services’s sub sector of temporary help services, which decreased by 111,000 jobs in April. The transportation and warehousing sector seemed to take a bit of a hit in its employment of couriers and messengers with a 77,000 decrease last month but remains 126,000 jobs higher than in February 2020. 

Manufacturing is another industry that has “edged down” a bit from its February and March employment hikes this year, where it respectively had increased by 35,000 and 54,000 jobs, and is now down by 18,000. Despite the job gains of 13,000 in miscellaneous durable goods and 4,000 in chemicals, the report noted these gains were “more than offset” by the 27,000 job losses in motor vehicles and parts, and 7,000 loss in wood products. The overall manufacturing employment number still lags behind its pre-pandemic numbers by 515,000.

The picture is not that stark, though, with average hourly earnings on private nonfarm payrolls increasing by 21 cents in April. “The data for April suggest that the rising demand for labor associated with the recovery from the pandemic may have put upward pressure on wages,” the report stated. 

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