After a dismal March jobs report that had economists worrying about a potential downturn, the U.S. Labor Department Friday said the U.S. economy added 223,000 jobs in April and the unemployment rate fell to 5.4%, a seven-year low.
“This was a good and important number,” Janney Capital chief investment strategist Mark Luschini told the Washington Post. “It suggests the underlying momentum in the economy is sufficiently strong” and that performance in the winter was “somewhat anomalous.”
The Labor Department revised downward its job gains numbers for March to 85,000, the slowest gain in private sector payrolls since 2012.
Payroll growth in April was “not too hot that it will force the Fed’s hand in June, and not too cold that it pushes the first [interest] rate hike into 2016,” Scott Anderson, Bank of the West chief economist, wrote in an e-mail to the Washington Post.
During April, employment increased in professional and business services, health care, and construction, while employment in mining continued to decline, the Labor Department said.
Professional and business services added 62,000 jobs; services to buildings and dwellings, 16,000; computer systems design and related services, 9,000; business support services, 7,000; and management and technical consulting services, 6,000.
Health-care employment increased by 45,000 — ambulatory health care services, 25,000; hospitals, 12,000; and nursing and residential care facilities, 8,000.
Employment in construction rose by 45,000, with job growth concentrated in specialty trade contractors, which added 41,000 jobs. Employment gains were about evenly split between the residential and nonresidential components. Employment continued to trend up in transportation and warehousing, which added 15,000 jobs.
Employment in mining fell by 15,000 in April, with most of the job loss in support activities for mining (-10,000) and in oil and gas extraction (-3,000).
In numbers provided by the Labor Department’s household survey, the civilian labor force participation rate changed little, at 62.6%, and the number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) also barely budged, at 2.5 million. That group accounts for 29% of all unemployed U.S. workers.
Meanwhile, average hourly earnings for employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased just one tenth of a percent; analysts were expecting a 1% increase. March wage gains were also revised lower, to 0.2% from an initial estimate of 0.3%.
Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased 2.2%.