U.S. Employment Bounces Back in April

Boring presentation

It 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-�-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.


Hospitality and leisure workers

Here's where jobs were added in April, according to the latest report: Employment rose in leisure and hospitality, healthcare, financials, and mining. Leisure and hospitality jumped by 55,000, with food services accounting for nearly half of that increase at 26,000 jobs.


Healthcare and social assistance was up by 37,000 for April, with healthcare accounting for the lion's share at 20,000 jobs. Financial activities jobs increased by 19,000, with 14,000 jobs at insurance carriers and related firms absorbing most of that gain.


Mining jumped by 9,000 for April, reversing a long-term decline in that sector, though the vast majority (7,000) of those jobs were in support activities for mining, rather than actual mining jobs themselves. Professional and business services also added 39,000 jobs for April, less than the 51,000 monthly jobs added in this sector over the past year (May 2016 through April 2017).


Other sectors were mostly flat for April, including construction, manufacturing, wholesale and retail trades, transportation and warehousing, and government.


Information likewise, though the number of unemployed and unemployment rates for our home sector are both down from April 2016: 4.1 versus 4.8 percent for the rate, and 107,000 versus 141,000 for the unemployed count, respectively. Sector size was 2.73 million in April 2016 as compared to 2.61 million in April 2017.


Alas, this indicates a net loss of 120,000 jobs for the sector over the past 12 months. Sigh. All in all, things are improving — especially when compared to March 2017 or May 2016, the two minimal months for all of 2016 and so far for 2017.


Let's hope the upward trend continues and the job creation numbers continue to climb. Only then will we see the US economy in general, and IT employment in particular, really start to rebound.


Would you like more insight into the history of hacking? Check out Calvin's other articles about historical hackery:
About the Author

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran who's worked as a software developer, technical marketer, consultant, author, and researcher. Author of many books and articles, Ed also writes on certification topics for Tech Target, ComputerWorld and Win10.Guru. Check out his website at www.edtittel.com, where he also blogs daily on Windows 10 and 11 topics.