National employment, April 2021


The national jobs report for April underperformed expectations and the unemployment rate rose slightly. The March jobs figure was revised downward significantly.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, part of the United States Department of Labor, reported the closely-followed jobs number rose in April 2021 by 266,000 jobs from the prior month. The unemployment rate fell slightly to 6.1 percent from 6.2 percent.

Compared to the economy before the onset of the pandemic, BLS wrote: “Both the unemployment rate, at 6.1 percent, and the number of unemployed persons, at 9.8 million, were little changed in April. These measures are down considerably from their recent highs in April 2020 but remain well above their levels prior to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic (3.5 percent and 5.7 million, respectively, in February 2020)”

The summary report from BLS may be found here.

Of note: BLS revised recent figures, which it does as more data becomes available. for February was revised up by 68,000, from +468,000 to +536,000, and the change for March was revised down by 146,000, from +916,000 to +770,000. The March revision is notably large.

In its reporting, the Wall Street Journal wrote, “Hiring in the U.S. unexpectedly slowed in April, a sign the nation’s recovery from the pandemic still faces challenges as many businesses struggle to find workers or remain cautious about the economic outlook. … Higher vaccination rates, fiscal stimulus and easing business restrictions are converging to support stronger spending across the U.S. But an economy emerging from pandemic-related disruptions is also encountering restraints on job gains and broader economic activity, as imbalances in supply and demand for goods, services and labor play out.” See U.S. Employers Added 266,000 Jobs in April as Hiring Slowed.

Axios reported: “Friday morning’s dismal jobs report only goes to prove whatever people already believed about government policy. The big picture: Democrats and progressives are convinced that the weak pace of job growth only serves to underscore the necessity of massive government spending to boost the economy. ‘The US economy is being propped up by fiscal transfers,’ writes economist Edward Harrison. ‘There is still weakness beneath that. And these jobs numbers prove this.’ In this view, the stimulus was barely big enough to generate anemic job growth, and anything smaller would have been disastrous. … Republicans and the business lobby see the opposite dynamic. ‘The disappointing jobs report makes it clear that paying people not to work is dampening what should be a stronger jobs market,’ says U.S. Chamber of Commerce chief policy officer Neil Bradley. ‘One step policymakers should take now is ending the $300 weekly supplemental unemployment benefit.’ Weak job growth also throws into question the efficacy of massive government stimulus. If trillions of dollars in new spending can’t provide a large bump to employment, that’s evidence that it simply failed.” See The polarizing jobs report.

In an analysis for the New York Times, Neil Irwin wrote: “It’s a little secret of the news business that for some anticipated events, like a Supreme Court decision or the death of a prominent figure, we pre-write much of an article or different versions of them so that we can publish quickly once news occurs. Which is why there is now a trashed draft of this article explaining how the April jobs numbers show what a hyper-speed economic recovery looks like. It was completely wrong. … The details of the new numbers are messy. Temporary employment fell sharply (down 111,000 jobs), while hiring in the leisure and hospitality sector was robust (up 331,000 jobs). It will take time to figure out why so many mainstream forecasts were so wrong — the modest job creation is out of whack with what other indicators have suggested — and whether some part of the weak results is more statistical aberration than reality. But if robust job growth doesn’t return quickly, it will be very concerning. The economy is still short 8.2 million jobs from its February 2020 level. The great hope has been that employers would fill that gap rapidly, bringing the United States back to its full potential in short order. See The Jobs Report: The Boom That Wasn’t: April’s anemic job creation was so out of line with what other indicators have suggested that it will take some time to unravel the mystery..

My interactive visualization is updated with this data and is available at Visualization: National employment and unemployment.

An example from the interactive visualization. Click for larger.


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