The April unemployment rate held steady despite that net job growth was weaker than economists had expected.
According to the most recent monthly report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the private sector netted 171,000 nonfarm job gains in April. Local, state and federal governments lost 11,000 jobs, resulting in 160,000 total net job gains. Economists had expected around 200,000 total net job gains, according to various sources.
The unemployment rate held at 5.0 percent in April from March, after dropping from 5.0 to 4.9 percent in January and February. (More information about the unemployment rate is below.)
The private sector has now gained nonfarm jobs for 74 consecutive months since the Great Recession. The unemployment rate has dropped 5.0 percentage points from the recessionary high of 10.0 set in October 2009.
The BLS revised job gains for February and March 2016, showing that the economy netted 19,000 fewer jobs than the BLS had previously estimated for the two months. Net nonfarm job gains have averaged 200,000 per month over the past three months and 232,000 per month over the past year.
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Professional and business services added 65,000 jobs in April, resulting in an average of 51,000 job gains per month over the prior 12 months.
At 44,000, job growth continued in health care as it has for years. The industry has added 502,000 jobs in the past year alone. Much of the industry’s steady job growth over the past few years, even throughout the Great Recession, is attributable to the increasing medical demands of aging baby boomers and the ever-growing obesity epidemic, and to provisions in the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) as well.
Construction, one the measures of labor-market health, gained only 1,000 jobs. Manufacturing, also a measure of labor-market health, gained only 4,000 jobs after few gains throughout 2015 and this year so far.
The mining industry continued losing jobs in April, again due mostly to lower oil prices. The industry has lost 191,000 jobs since reaching a job-growth peak in September 2014, but most of the job losses are in mining support operations. (See Table B by the BLS for more job numbers listed by industry.)
Among the major work groups tracked by the BLS, teenagers again suffered the highest unemployment rate (16.0 percent) followed by Blacks (8.8), Hispanics (6.1), adult men (4.6), adult women (4.5), whites (4.3) and Asians (3.8, not seasonally adjusted). The unemployment rate for Hispanics increased by 0.5 percent. No other group experienced a significant change.
Workers who are 25 years of age or older and who have earned four-year college degrees or higher experienced a 2.4 percent unemployment rate in April, down from 2.6 in March. Those in the same age group and who don’t have high school diplomas suffered a much-higher 7.5 percent rate, up from 7.4 in March and 7.3 in February. (See Table A-5 by the BLS for more information about the unemployment rate by education level.)
The unemployment rate held at 5.0 percent in April, even though net job growth was lackluster. Economists consider an unemployment rate of around 5.0 percent to be normal. It has held at or very near that level (plus or minus 0.1) since August 2015.
The number of workers that the BLS counted as unemployed in April was 7.9 million, down from 8.0 million in the month before. In order for the BLS to count workers as unemployed, they must have been actively seeking jobs in the four weeks preceding the count.
The count of unemployed workers does not include those who are involuntarily working only part time and with fewer benefits, if any, such as no health insurance, because they can’t find full-time jobs or employers cut their work hours. The number of involuntarily part-timers in April was 6.0 million, down slightly from 6.1 million in March.
The average workweek for all part-timers and full-timers in the private sector increased by 0.1 to 34.5 hours in April. Their average hourly earnings increased by 8 cents to $25.53, after increasing by 6 cents in March. Average hourly earnings have risen by 2.5 percent in a year. For private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees, average hourly earnings increased by 5 cents to $21.45 after a 4-cent hourly increase in March.
The unemployment rate also does not include “marginally-attached” unemployed workers. The BLS does not count them in the official rate because they stopped looking for work in the four weeks preceding the count, for reasons such as school attendance, family matters or their collective perception that there simply are no jobs — at least not for them.
The number of marginally-attached workers in April was 1.7 million, the same as in March but down by 400,000 from a year earlier. Among the marginally-attached, 568,000 were so-called “discouraged workers” because they gave up looking for work due to their shared perception that there are no jobs. The number of discouraged workers was down by 17,000 from the 585,000 that the BLS initially reported for March, and by 188,000 from a year ago. (The BLS does not seasonally adjust any of the figures in this paragraph.)
The number of long-term unemployed workers, those who have been without jobs for 27 weeks or longer, was 2.1 million in April, down by 150,000 from March. The number of long-term unemployed workers has been about the same since June 2015. These workers accounted for 25.7 percent of the unemployed in April. Standard state unemployment benefits last only up to 26 weeks without extensions.
If you are a recent victim of job loss or a reduction in work hours resulting from the high unemployment rate, then you might be eligible to collect full or partial unemployment benefits from the state unemployment office. You might also be eligible to continue your employer-provided group health insurance coverage through COBRA.
For more details about the April 2016 unemployment rate and job numbers, see the “Employment Situation Summary” by the BLS. The BLS plans to report the May 2016 unemployment rate and job numbers on June 3. To receive notification like the above automatically, subscribe to Employee Rights Blog for free.
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Except where otherwise noted, figures in this unemployment rate report were rounded and/or seasonally adjusted by the BLS, and are subject to revision by same (based on additional data that was not initially available). The unemployment rate chart pictured above was provided by the BLS.