Unemployment rate at 8.1%, only 115K jobs added, participation rate shrinks again to new low

posted at 8:31 am on May 4, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

The April jobs report fell short of analysts expectations, as only 115,000 jobs were added.  Consensus expectations had been in the 165K-170K range, which still would have been below the rate jobs were added in February, January, and December.  While the jobless rate dropped slightly, the number of jobs added came in short of March’s disappointing level:

Nonfarm payroll employment rose by 115,000 in April, and the unemployment rate was little changed at 8.1 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Employment increased in professional and business services, retail trade, and health care, but declined in transportation and warehousing.

Both the number of unemployed persons (12.5 million) and the unemployment rate (8.1 percent) changed little in April. (See table A-1.)

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men (7.5 percent), adult women (7.4 percent), teenagers (24.9 percent), whites (7.4 percent), and Hispanics (10.3 percent) showed little or no change in April, while the rate for blacks (13.0 percent) declined over the month. The jobless rate for Asians was 5.2 percent in April (not seasonally adjusted), little changed from a year earlier. (See tables A-1, A-2, and A-3.)

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks and over) was little changed at 5.1 million in April. These individuals made up 41.3 percent of the unemployed. Over the year, the number of long-term unemployed has fallen by 759,000. (See table A-12.)

So how did the jobless rate drop?  The same way it’s been dropping all along — people exiting the workforce:

The civilian labor force participation rate declined in April to 63.6 percent, while the employment-population ratio, at 58.4 percent, changed little.

That’s a new 30-year low in the participation rate.  Here’s the chart from the BLS for the last 30 years:

Note that the biggest and steepest plunge has taken place since the Obama recovery started in June 2009.

The U-6 rate held steady in April nonetheless at 14.5%, even with the increased exodus of workers from the workforce.

Update: CNBC notes that the actual employment level in the US fell by 169,000:

April’s job report lived up to muted expectations, with the economy creating a meager 115,000 jobs during the month as the unemployment rate fell to 8.1 percent. …

Though the headline number indicated job creation, the total employment level for the month actually fell 169,000.

“This remains a weak economy, and the job counts in March and April — which have come in at considerably below 200,000 per month — may perhaps continue right through the summer,” said Kathy Bostjancic, director of macroeconomic analysis at The Conference Board.

Wall Street economists had been expecting the Bureau of Labor Statistics report to show 170,000 new jobs created and the unemployment rate   holding steady at 8.2 percent.

That weakness will keep jobs and the economy at the top of the list for voter concerns, and keep Obama and his campaign on their mission to talk about any other distraction they can find from it.

Update II: Zero Hedge notes that 522,000 people left the workforce in April, or more than four times the number of net jobs gained in the BLS report.

Update III: Yes, but what does Reuters say?  The rose-colored-glasses wire service calls this a “mixed” report:

Employers decreased hiring for the second straight month in April but the unemployment rate still fell to 8.1 percent, giving mixed messages about the economy’s strength ahead of President Barack Obama’s November re-election bid.

Employers added 115,000 workers to their payrolls last month, the Labor Department said on Friday.

The reading keeps fears alive that the U.S. economy is losing momentum and dampens hopes that a stretch of strong winter hiring signaled a turning point for the recovery.

The unemployment rate ticked a tenth of a point lower to a three-year low, as people left the work force. The jobless rate is derived from a separate survey of households, which showed a drop in the number of jobs in April.

So what was the “mixed” part?  The BLS adjusted the jobs gains numbers in February and March upward, but you have to love how Reuters frames it:

Still, the government revised upward its initial estimates for payroll growth in February and March by a combined 53,000. That left the six-month average of job growth at 197,000, nearly exactly where it would have been had April job growth come in as expected at 170,000.

But, er … it didn’t.  So what does that tell us about the economy and jobs growth?  It ain’t a mixed message.


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You have it backwards. Gas prices holding steady or in slow decline right now are an indication of a shrinking economy.
NotCoach on May 4, 2012 at 10:02 AM

Missed the point I see. There is a breaking point in this economy of $3.50/gal for gas. Over the last 5 years anytime gas goes above that price the economy slows down. You will always get price increases during an economic recovery unless you incres the supply to respond to the increase in demand. Sincewe are not increasing supply in any meaningful way the economy can never recovery since any recovery is killed in the cradle because gas prices goes beyond the $3.5/gal limit that the economy can sustain. As the economy gets weaker and weaker the limit on gas prices that the economy can absorp is lower and lower. I doubt at tyhis stage we can get any meaningful recovery unless gas comes down to less than $3.00/gal and stays there until wages catches up to the increas in prices.

unseen on May 4, 2012 at 12:54 PM

the employment-population ratio, at 58.4 percent, changed little.

The average employment-population ratio over the entire Presidency of George W. Bush was 62.7%, and peaked at 63.4% in December 2006, at the end of majority-Republican control.

Democrats took majority control of the House, Senate, and overall budgeting and spending in January 2007, drove the economy into the ditch in 2008 and 2009, and the employment-population ratio has been between 58.2% and 58.7% since September 2009. There has been no recovery. The average over the Obama Presdidency has been 58.7%, and we are currently three-tenths of a point below that average.

Democrats continue to blame job losses on Bush, even though the Democrats have held majority control since January 2007 when they took both houses of Congress. Those job losses came under Democrat majorities.

Democrats talk about “jobs created” under Obama since the low point, (giving Bush all the blame for job losses and Obama all the credit for job creation), but they will never talk about how the average Employment-Population Ratio over the entire 8 years of the Bush Presidency averaged 62.7%, while the average under the pResidency of Barack H. Obama has been a full 4 percentage points lower: 58.7%.

Those 4 percentage points equate to about 10 Million jobs.

The Obama administration would have to find a way to create 10 Million new jobs just to get back to the average level of employment under the Bush Presidency.

And if you want to get back to where things were when the Democrats took majority control in January 2007, we’d need about 12.5 Million new jobs. The Employment-Population Ratio was almost 5 points higher in December 2006 (63.4%) than it is now (58.5%), and if the population aged 16 years and over is approximately 250 Million people, each 1% represents about 2.5 Million jobs.

Democrats drove us into the ditch when they took over majority control in 2007, drove us deeper into the ditch when they gained absolute control in 2009, and we’ve stayed in the ditch ever since 2010.

To get out of the ditch, we need “REVERSE”, not “FORWARD”.

ITguy on May 4, 2012 at 12:57 PM

Where’s bayam to spin these numbers for us?

Probably still waiting for the Krugman Talking Points…

Del Dolemonte on May 4, 2012 at 12:52 PM

The trolls have been very quiet lately. It’s hard to defend a cratering economy, except for them to say either we are all cheering for a bad economy OR we should be grateful for good employment news.

That’s their usual tripe.

dogsoldier on May 4, 2012 at 1:12 PM

“…awarded to an illegal alien who claimed 20 children live in a single trailer, that actually housed a single child.”

And, I’ll bet romney’s $10,000 gambling fund that each of these 20 will miraculously find a way to cast one (or more) votes for OBOZO in the next election.Socialist Media Headline: “Unemployment Rate Falls to 8.1 Pct”
Appropriate Headline: “U.S. workforce collapses to 30-year low”
…we can ALWAYS count on the socialist media to play up anything that seemingly helps their Messiah, OBOZO, no matter how meaningless and misleading it is.

The POST-JOBS presidency: OBOZO won’t give up until EVERY American has given up looking for a job.

TeaPartyNation on May 4, 2012 at 1:20 PM

Oh, good Lord .. more pap !!

pambi on May 4, 2012 at 1:58 PM

Right on schedule Obama claims the 8.1% number means the economy is getting better while spewing the “worst depression” meme, and he inherited it blah blah…

sandee on May 4, 2012 at 2:01 PM

pambi on May 4, 2012 at 1:58 PM

Wow. Even our HA trolls can spin better claptrap than Zero.

dogsoldier on May 4, 2012 at 2:02 PM

Right on schedule Obama claims the 8.1% number means the economy is getting better while spewing the “worst depression” meme, and he inherited it blah blah…

sandee on May 4, 2012 at 2:01 PM

This perfectly illustrates his arrogant indifference to the problem and the fact he and his campaign are not only bankrupt they are DOGMATIC.

Dogmatic << Yeah that's what they are. Should be his campaign slogan.

dogsoldier on May 4, 2012 at 2:04 PM

“After the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, our businesses have now created more than 4.2 million jobs over the last 26 months (and) more than one million jobs in the last six months alone,” Obama said at a school in the crucial election swing state of Virginia.

Other than his outstanding ability to lie, HOW can he say this ??
Seriously, since that’s the cr*ap I get from libs, what can I point to as to his references ?? Y’know ?
They’ve heard the actual facts, but I just want to know where/how he comes up with that !!
Any help ??

pambi on May 4, 2012 at 2:05 PM

Unexpectedly…of course

krome on May 4, 2012 at 2:11 PM

In IL, the Extended Benefits (EB) Program which is the final 20 weeks of the total of 99 weeks for which you can collect unemployment is being discontinued as of May 12. IL officials cited falling ue rates and steady economic growth as the reason. Duh? Where?

They claim IL has added 142,100 jobs since January 2010–yes read that comparison to the job level of over 2 years ago. They also claim that unemployment decreased in every metro area compared to a year ago, though it’s still 9.0% in the Chicago metro area–spinspinspin.

On top of that, the “squeaky clean” IL gubmint, lead by the impeccable Gov. Quinnocchio, has added two prosecutors to help ferret out unemployment benefit fraud. Isn’t that just precious from a state gubmint that’s so shady, fraudulent and corrupt that it’s barely treading water while swimming in the muck of the debt produced by it’s own legislative pension malfeasance, among other financial and legislative offenses, making sure they’re paying themselves and their pals, right on out to their furthest cronies!

The spin goes on … and keeps spinnin’n’spinnin’n’spinnin’ … and IL isn’t even the worst state to do business in–got beat out by CA, though IL is among the worst 5.

stukinIL4now on May 4, 2012 at 2:41 PM

“Thank you Mister President!” /crr6
More good news from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue… Fabulous…

Khun Joe on May 4, 2012 at 3:37 PM

According to shadowstats the honest unemployment rate is now 22.3%

VorDaj on May 4, 2012 at 7:56 PM

I too have decided not to participate in the workforce.

Does anyone know where I get my paycheck now that I’m unwilling to work for a living? Thanks in advance.

Kevin M on May 4, 2012 at 10:10 PM

When the unemployment rate is reported at 7.9% and the state controlled media praises Obama for “lowering” unemployment just prior to the election, it won’t matter. Those without a job are not going to suddenly think that all is rosy because of what they hear on television. You can’t make a lie about reality and change people’s minds. Romney needs to constantly remind everybody how these numbers are fixed and how many people have lost jobs since Obama has been President.

Decoski on May 5, 2012 at 12:29 AM

Obviously, the Fed needs to print more money, tax the rich at 100%, and you people need to buy Chevy Volts. WINNING THE FUTURE!

racquetballer on May 5, 2012 at 3:03 AM

Lots of good comments on this thread. Noticeably absent – the Obama fluffers spinning their hero’s performance with ridiculous rationalizations.

El Salsero on May 5, 2012 at 10:21 AM

Lots of good comments on this thread. Noticeably absent – the Obama fluffers spinning their hero’s performance with ridiculous rationalizations.

El Salsero on May 5, 2012 at 10:21 AM

Yeah, I expected them to show up with the laughable drivel Obama and his campaign are putting out about “job Growth.” They will get laughed out of every serious discussion with that lunacy. His campaign has lost its grip on reality completely.

dogsoldier on May 5, 2012 at 1:28 PM

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