Economy Resumes Climb With Healthy 223,000 Jobs, Unemployment Ticks Down to 5.4%
FlaglerLive | May 8, 2015
After the worst job-creation month in 15 months, and growth showing a stall in the first quarter, the economy added 233,000 jobs in April and unemployment went down to 5.4 percent, another new low since the Great Recession: the unemployment rate was last this low exactly seven years ago, in May 2008, when it was beginning to rise rapidly.
That’s the good part. The not-so-goot part of this morning’s job report is that despite April’s healthy job creation, it’s significantly down from the more than average 300,000 jobs a month created in the last three months of 2014, while January and February job creation numbers were revised downward by 39,000, to a total of 351,000 for the two months combined.
There are still 8.5 million unemployed Americans, and the unemployment rate does not reflect the number of discouraged workers who have dropped out of the workforce altogether, or the 6.5 million who are working part-time because they cannot find full-time work, or because their hours have been cut back. When those numbers are included, the more accurate unemployment and under-employment rate, officially known as the U-6 rate, climbs to 10.8 percent–and 12.3 percent in Florida. Nevertheless, that rate has fallen a full percentage point in the past year.
The Labor Department notes that job growth in April was particularly strong in construction, professional and business services, and education and health services. These are sectors that have historically provided good-paying middle-class jobs. Employment in mining, oil and gas industries all fell. Employment in other manufacturing, wholesale trade, retail trade, information, financial activities, leisure and hospitality, and government, showed little change.
Two other indicators of the economy’s underlying strength remain relatively tepid: the civilian labor force participation rate was at 62.8 percent, hovering in that zone with minor upticks or downticks for the past year. The employment-population ratio held at 59.3 percent in April and has been at this level
since January. But the large-scale retirement of baby-boomers accounts for a big portion of the lower participation rate.
In April, average hourly earnings for all employees on private payrolls rose by 3 cents to $24.87. That’s just 0.1 percent. The inflation rate went up 0.2 percent. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by only 2.2 percent, not enough to keep up with inflation or provide the sort of boost that improves standards of living.