U.S. job growth slowed sharply in April as employers apparently reacted to the sluggish economy by adding the fewest jobs since September.
Nonfarm payrolls rose last month by a seasonally adjusted 160,000 — below analysts’ expectations and well off the 208,000 net new jobs added in March — the Labor Department said Friday.
The unemployment rate was unchanged at 5%, near an eight-year low, but the share of Americans participating in the labor force fell to 62.8% in April from 63% in March.
“So far in this expansion, slowdowns in employment growth were just temporary setbacks in an otherwise rapidly expanding workforce,” Gad Levanon, the chief economist for North America at the Conference Board business group, told the Los Angeles Times.
“We think this time is different,” he said.
One positive sign in the jobs report was wage growth, with average hourly earnings of private-sector workers rising by 8 cents to $25.53. From a year earlier, wages advanced 2.5%, a firmer gain than March’s increase.
“The long-awaited acceleration in wage growth is taking hold, though in a somewhat bumpy fashion,” Sophia Koropeckyj, managing director at Moody’s Analytics, told the Times in another article.
The Wall Street Journal suggested that the report leaves the Federal Reserve with a conundrum as it considers whether to raise interest rates again.
“The pullback in job creation, after years of more robust gains, could reflect a return to levels generally considered healthy for an economy growing slowly and approaching full employment,” it said. “Or it could signal trouble ahead due to uncertainty at home and abroad.”
The retail sector, which had been hiring steadily this year, cut 3,100 jobs in April, while jobs in mining and logging, the sector that includes the coal and oil and gas industry, fell by 8,000 in April, extending a long streak of declines.