U.S. Employment Numbers for April Show Economy in a Rut

Boredom in business meeting

Today is the first Friday of May, and as with most first Fridays, it's time for the monthly jobs report from the U.S. Department of Labor. This month's report is somewhat lackluster, with only 160,000 jobs created in April.


That's about 70,000 jobs less than the average, over the prior 12-month period (March 2015 to March 2016), of 232,000 new jobs per month. Also, it's sharply down from the February and March numbers, and both of those counts were revised slightly downward as well: February dipped from 245,000 to 233,000 jobs, and March from 215,000 to 208,000 jobs.


I can only hope this is a one-off downward glitch and not a new trend, because new job counts that are less than 200,000 aren't going to make a dent in the backlog of long-term unemployed who've not yet rejoined the workforce. Anything between 100,000 and 200,000 news jobs per month merely soaks up the influx of new entrants into the workforce.


That doesn't leave much slack left over to pick up those others still trying to find their way back into full- or part-time work of some kind.


As the gross numbers foretell, only a few industry sectors enjoyed job growth for April, with most sectors standing still for the month. Professional and business services took a jump, adding 65,000 jobs for April, as contrasted with the 51,000 month-over-month average for the preceding 12 months.


Maybe that's because April is Tax Month here in the United States, and professional and business services usually experience peak demand in March and April for that reason. But it was management and technical services (+21,000 jobs) and computer systems design and related services (+7,000 jobs) that accounted for nearly half that bump, so perhaps not.


Other "up" sectors for April include health care (+44,000 jobs), and financial activities (+20,000). The only "down" sector was mining, which lost 7,000 jobs in April, continuing a downward trend that's been ongoing since September 2014.


All the other sectors — construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, retail trade, transportation and warehousing, leisure and hospitality, government, and our own home sector, information — showed little or no change.


The average workweek and average hourly earnings are up just a hair. We added 0.1 hour to 34.5 hours for April, and hourly earnings rose by 8 cents to $25.53 for all employees, and inched up by 5 cents to $21.45 for private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees.


It's not exactly bad news, but it's not really good news, either. So here we stand, betwixt and between, neither advancing vigorously forward not yet jumping off a cliff. Buckle up, people: It looks like a trend for slow growth could once again be upon us!


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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.