April jobs report: 165K jobs created, 7.5% unemployment rate; Update: Reuters: “Consistent with a slowdown”

posted at 8:34 am on May 3, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

The April jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics beat expectations, with job growth at 165,000 net, and an unemployment rate of 7.5%.  The BLS also upwardly revised the previous two months — adding 64,000 to February to bring it to 332K jobs added, and 50,000 to March to raise it to 138K:

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 165,000 in April, and the unemployment rate was little changed at 7.5 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Employment increased in professional and business services, food services and drinking places, retail trade, and health care.

The unemployment rate, at 7.5 percent, changed little in April but has declined by 0.4 percentage point since January. The number of unemployed persons, at 11.7 million, was also little changed over the month; however,
unemployment has decreased by 673,000 since January. …

The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for February was revised from +268,000 to +332,000, and the change for March was revised from +88,000 to +138,000. With these revisions, employment gains in February and March combined were 114,000 higher than previously reported.

The civilian workforce participation rate remained at a 34-year low of 63.3%. However, the number of people not in the workforce declined slightly in the Household data from March by 31,000. It’s still 632,000 higher than in February. Discouraged workers rose by 32,000 and marginally-attached workers rose by 21,000, both of which are relatively narrow shifts.

The drop in the U-3 or nominal unemployment rate to 7.5% is one tenth of a point from March, but four-tenths from January. The U-6 total unemployed rate actually rose a tenth of a point in April to 13.9%, but that’s also a half-percent lower than January.

The 165K jobs growth figure beat expectations across the board — but let’s not turn that into better news than it is.  At 165K, the US economy generated slightly more jobs than it needs to keep up with population growth (~150K).  The civilian workforce participation rate makes it clear that we’re not putting people back to work — at best, we’re treading water.  The revised February numbers are what we need as an average to make a dent in the massive number of people shut out of the jobs market.  This is about the average we’ve seen for the recovery.

CNBC seems pleased by the results, but points out the workforce woes:

Job creation accelerated in April, with the U.S. economy adding 165,000 new positions and the unemployment rate edging lower, quelling worries of a spring slowdown.

New figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that a light March payrolls report may have been an aberration, as higher taxes and reduced spending due to the fiscal stalemate in Washington failed to deter growth.

The unemployment rate edged lower to 7.5 percent, due partly to the jobs gains and to a labor-force participation rate that remains at a 35-year low.

Reuters, however, takes a more pessimistic view:

Still, details of the report remained consistent with a slowdown in economic activity. Construction employment fell for the first time since May, while manufacturing payrolls were flat. The average workweek pulled off a nine-month high, but average hourly earnings rose four cents[.]

Beating expectations is not the same as a good jobs report.  This one is a treading-water report, nothing more, and the revisions to March only move it up from poor to stagnation.

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