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U.S. Economy Avoids Spring Slowdown: Hiring Up, Unemployment Down

The economy added a better-than-expected 165,000 jobs in April

| BY Donald Liebenson

The U.S. economy added 165,000 jobs in April, the Labor Department reported Friday. Employment totals were also revised upward for February (from 268,000 jobs to 332,000) and March (from 88,000 to 138,000). The economy has now added private sector jobs for 38 consecutive months. A total of 6.8 million jobs has been added over that period, while more than 800,000 private sector jobs have been added over the last four months.

The unemployment rate ticked downward from 7.6 percent to 7.5 percent, the lowest reading in four years. There were 11.7 million unemployed persons in April, unchanged from the previous month. The unemployment rate has declined by 0.4 percentage points since the beginning of the year, and unemployment has declined by 673,000 in the past four months. But economists caution that this may be in part because people have given up looking for work and are not counted among the unemployed.

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate for adult women declined in April from 7 percent in March to 6.7 percent. The rates for teenagers (24.1 percent), blacks (13.2 percent) Hispanics (9 percent), adult men (7.1 percent), adult women and whites (6.7 percent) showed little or no change.

The civilian labor force participation rate—the ratio of those actively employed or looking for work to the overall eligible population—was 63.3 percent, unchanged from the previous month..

In April, the number of those who have been jobless for 27 weeks or more declined by 258,000 to 4.4 million. These “long-term unemployed” accounted for 37.4 percent of the unemployed, a decline from March of 2.2 percent.

The number of “involuntary part-time workers,” persons who were employed part-time because their hours had been scaled back or because they were unable to find a full-time job, increased to 7.9 million, an increase of 278,000.

Last month, 2.3 million persons, unchanged from March, were marginally attached to the workforce, meaning they were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. These individuals are not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the four weeks prior to the survey.

Among these individuals, there were 835,000 “discouraged workers,” down 133,000 from a year earlier. These individuals are not currently looking for work because they believe there are no jobs available for them. The remaining 1.5 million persons marginally attached to the labor force in April had not searched for work in the four weeks prior to the survey for reasons such as school attendance or family responsibilities, the BLS said.

Professional and business services added 73,000 job in April. Over the past year, employment in this industry has grown by 587,000 jobs. Within the leisure and hospitality industry, employment in food services and drinking establishments rose by 38,000 over the month. Job growth in the food services industry averaged 25,000 per month over the last year..

Retail jobs increased by 29,000 in April, while health care added 19,000.

Total job creation needs to be between 250,000 and 300,000 to lift the economy and significantly lower the unemployment rate, economists say.

About the Author

Donald Liebenson

Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.  

A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.