April’s 165,000 Jobs Growth Shows Recovery Demise “Grossly Exaggerated”

May 3, 2013
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

Econ index April 2013After a mediocre jobs report from ADP on Wednesday, and the government’s own anemic March report last month, economists and the financial markets were hoping today’s report on April employment would make it at least into six digits.

No worries. The report from the U.S. Department of Labor this morning said 165,000 new non-farm jobs were created last month, while the unemployment rate declined slightly to 7.5 percent, even as the size of the workforce ticked up slightly. (It is still lower than at any time in more than three decades.)

The government also adjusted up its initial numbers for both February and March, increasing the new job estimates by a combined 114,000. With the revisions, job growth in the first quarter totaled 618,000. That’s just slightly behind the 208,000 monthly average during all of last year.

The April job growth was better than analysts were expecting. Before the release in Washington, surveys of economists showed them expecting job growth to be in a range between about 125,000 and 155,000.

The takeaway from the report — and other economic reports this week, including the closely watched Case-Shiller showing housing prices up across the nation — is that this is a resilient economy. Though employment is growing slowly, it is doing so despite tax increases (payroll increases in January), European financial problems, and the federal government’s sequestration.

“The demise of this recovery is grossly exaggerated,” said Eric Green, global head of research at TD Securities Inc.. “We’re still in a soft patch” he told Bloomberg News, “but the job market is not falling apart. The U.S. labor market is in much better shape than most people feared.”

April’s job growth came in several areas:

  • Hospitality jobs took a big jump, adding 43,000 overall, with 37,900 of them at restaurants and bars;
  • Temp services added 30,800 jobs, the largest increase on a seasonally-adjusted basis since March 2011;
  • Retail added 29,300 jobs, nearly half at general merchandise stores. Department stores added 7,900 new workers;
  • Health care jobs grew by 19,000;
  • Professional and Technical Services added 22,800 jobs. The category includes legal, accounting, computer professionals, architectural jobs, and management and consulting services.

Government and the goods-producing sector were the soft spots. Government at all levels lost 11,000 jobs; 8,000 came from the federal workforce. Construction was down 6,000 jobs and manufacturing was flat.

While the official unemployment rate declined during April, and is now .4 points lower than it was in January, by another measure, the so-called U-6 report, rose slightly to 13.9 percent. This report not only counts those who meet the official definition of unemployed, but also includes those working part-time because they can’t find other work, and those out of a job and looking for work, but who didn’t look during the April survey period.

Overall, that 13.9 percent translates into 21.9 million workers.

One other component of the government report economists watch as a sign of future employment development is the length of the average workweek. According to the report, it decreased by 0.2 hour to 34.4 hours. Within manufacturing, the workweek decreased by 0.1 hour to 40.7 hours, and overtime declined by 0.1 hour to 3.3 hours. The average workweek for production and nonsupervisory employees on private nonfarm payrolls decreased by 0.1 hour to 33.7 hours.

This article is part of a series called News & Trends.