April jobs report: 288,000 jobs added; U-3 falls to 6.3 percent

Economists were expecting good news from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ monthly jobs report today, and in some ways, they got it: The topline unemployment rate fell to 6.3 percent, the lowest level since September of 2008:

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 288,000, and the unemployment rate fell by 0.4 percentage point to 6.3 percent in April, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Employment gains were widespread, led by job growth in professional and business services, retail trade, food services and drinking places, and construction. …

In April, the unemployment rate fell from 6.7 percent to 6.3 percent, and the number of unemployed persons, at 9.8 million, decreased by 733,000. Both measures had shown little movement over the prior 4 months. Over the year, the unemployment rate and the number of unemployed persons declined by 1.2 percentage points and 1.9 million, respectively. (See table A-1.)

But lest we forget, the labor force participation rate in September of 2008 was 66 percent; this month, another 806,000 people dropped out of the labor force, leaving the participation rate right around its new-normal low of 62.8 percent. That means that just about 92,594,000 Americans are not in the labor force right now. Sure, the U-3 unemployment rate has dropped, but the employment-population ratio hasn’t really budged at all:

The civilian labor force dropped by 806,000 in April, following an increase of 503,000 in March. The labor force participation rate fell by 0.4 percentage point to 62.8 percent in April. The participation rate has shown no clear trend in recent months and currently is the same as it was this past October. The employment-population ratio showed no change over the month (58.9 percent) and has changed little over the year. (See table A-1.)

The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) was little changed at 7.5 million in April. These individuals were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find full-time work. (See table A-8.)

In April, 2.2 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force, down slightly from a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.) These individuals were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey. (See table A-16.)

Read: The net number of employed Americans actually fell by 73,000. Yes, this job report is an improvement over a lot of the trends we’ve been seeing in the past few years, but that’s hardly a metric worth celebrating — we’re still nowhere near our pre-recession unemployment or labor force participation rates. Stay tuned for the White House’s ritual spin-doctoring/endzone dancing.