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U.S. Employment Bounces Back in April

In a sharp reversal of the low numbers reported for March 2017, April’s job numbers jumped back over the 200,000 mark. Overall, however, the unemployment situation is little changed.

Boring presentationIt looks like April 2017 represents something of a welcome return to the “new normal” for job creation, after a pretty dismal March. The original jobs created number for March was a paltry 98,000, but that was revised downward to 79,000 in the latest Employment Situation Summary released on May 5 from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.


The April numbers come in at a decidedly improved and more encouraging 211,000 (167 percent higher than the revised numbers for the preceding month). With the February numbers revised upward from 219,000 to 232,000, however, the three-month average comes to 174,000.


That still falls short of the monthly average of around 186,000 over the past 12-month period (see the U.S. BLS Survey Output Servlet for Employment, Hours, and Earnings from the Current Employment Statistics Survey [National] for that data). Things are improving, albeit slowly.


Vis-à-vis last month, it’s a sharp jump. Many economists believe that job growth of 150,000 per month or better is needed to keep the economy on an even keel, and that job growth of 300,000 or better is necessary to soak up all of the long-term unemployed still seeking work in the wake of the 2008-2009 recession.


This puts us somewhere betwixt and between, doing better than keeping up with normal expansion of the workforce, but still not yet able to absorb the entire impact of the last economic hiccup. That’s born out by a less-than-complete average workweek for all employees of only 34.4 hours for April, with a mere 3.2 hours of average overtime for jobs that pay extra for hours over 40.


Ed T Figure 1 05 05 2017

Source: Numbers from Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; Image courtesy of NPR

Wages jumped a little bit more than usual in April, up by $0.07 per hour, with a jump of $0.65 per hour over the past year (an increase of 2.5 percent). That puts the average hourly wage for private sector production and nonsupervisory employees at $21.96.