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Healthy Employment Growth Returns!

J: The new employment numbers came out today from BLS and they tell a happy story. The total number of nonfarm payroll jobs in the US rose by 211,000 (seasonally adjusted, of course) in April to a record of 146,043,000 such jobs.

L: OK, unless something is NOT seasonally adjusted, I'm not going to mention it. Every time you read a number in our blogs, you may assume it is seasonally adjusted. I get tired of typing it and I'm sure you get tired of reading it. Jim likes to be accurate, but sheesh.

And we're always setting new employment records when the unemployment rate goes down now because the number of people in the US keeps going up, so a 5% unemployment rate last year is based on fewer jobs than a 5% unemployment rate this year.

J: The resulting unemployment rate of 4.4 percent was the lowest since May 2007, well before the recession began, when it was also 4.4 percent. It was also that low in March 2007, and October and December of 2006. Those were the lowest rates in the last expansion that ran from November 2001 to December 2007 (73 months).

The chart shows the unemployment rates back to January 1948. You can see that you have to go back to the "technology boom" years of 1999-2000 to get an unemployment rate below today's. We are well on our way to matching those extraordinarily low rates over the next couple of years.

More good news was in Table A-15 of the BLS report. That said that the broadest measure of unemployment (the line labeled U-6 which includes not only the unemployed people without a job actually looking for work, but also those marginally attached to the labor force, working part-time for economic reasons and discouraged workers) fell from 8.9 percent in March to 8.6 percent in April. That U-6 measure is the lowest since November 2007, just before the recession began. The normal measure of unemployment is the U-3 line.

There were a record 153,156,000 people employed in April (a number bigger than just the nonfarm payroll jobs mentioned in the first paragraph) while 7,056,000 people were unemployed and looking for work. There were 94,375,000 people age 16 and above who were not in the labor force, but only 5,707,000 of them currently want jobs. The majority of the people who are not in the labor force are retired, most of them happily.

All in all, the "great American jobs machine" we wrote about on April 15 continues to roll along. The revised March net increase of just 79,000 nonfarm payroll jobs (originally reported at 98,000) looks like an outlier. The outlook for good job growth seems very favorable. Be looking for another good release from BLS on June 2, which will tell us what happened with employment in May.

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