Disappointing Numbers Again as U.S. Economy Adds Only 115,000 Jobs; Unemployment at 8.1%
FlaglerLive | May 4, 2012
The national economy added only 115,000 jobs in April, adding to March’s disappointing numbers and renewing fears that the economy may be stalling, as it did last spring. The unemployment rate fell to 8.1 percent, a slight improvement on March’s 8.2 percent figure.
The private sector added 130,000 jobs, but government lost another 15,000, dragging down momentum.
Most indicators remained flat in comparison with the previous month: Some 12.5 million Americans are unemployed. The long-term unemployed, who have been without work for 27 weeks or more, made up 41.3 percent of the jobless rolls (5.1 million people), and in a bad sign, the civilian labor force participation rate again declined, to 63.6 percent, reversing small improvements over the previous two months. The participation rate is an indication of workers’ confidence: when they see matters improving, they jump back in.
It’s not that the economy isn’t performing. It is, in fact, producing more goods and services than it was before the recession, but it’s doing so with 5 million fewer workers: the economy has become more efficient, or employers have found ways to squeeze more out of their employees without paying them more (once inflation is taken into account), which raises questions about the notion of full employment: if companies can keep growing with lesser work forces, the gap between economic growth and employment rolls will grow as well, though earlier this week the Commerce Department posted anemic growth figures, too. None of which is comforting to the unemployed.
The so-called U-6 indicator, a more accurate sum-up of the employment picture that includes the unemployed, those who’ve quit looking for work altogether (and are no longer counted as officially unemployed), and those who work part-time because they can;t find full-time work, or because their hours have been cut back against their will, was unchanged, at 14.5 percent of the labor force.
A minor bright spot: February and March job creation numbers were revised upward, adding 53,000 jobs to a total of 413,000 for the two months.
A few highlights:
Employment in professional and business services increased by 62,000 in April. Temp services added 21,000 jobs, retail added 29,000 and health care 19,000. Manufacturing, a consistently strong spot since the end of the recession, added 16,000 for a total of 489,000 new jobs since January 2010, largely in durable goods manufacturing.
On the losing side, transportation and warehousing lost 17,000 jobs. Employment in other major industries, including mining and logging, construction, wholesale trade, information, financial activities, and government changed little.
The average workweek for all employees was unchanged at 34.5 hours in April, also a worrisome sign that suggests the demand for work may be slowing. The manufacturing workweek edged up by 0.1 hour to 40.8 hours, and factory overtime rose by 0.1 hour to 3.4 hours. Average hourly earnings for all employees rose by 1 cent to $23.38. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by 1.8 percent, not the sort of improvement that would register in an individual’s paycheck.