Hiring was strong for the second straight month in April and unemployment fell to a new 50-year low, easing concerns that a slowing global and U.S. economy could dampen hiring.
Employers added a booming 263,000 jobs, the Labor Department said Friday. The unemployment rate fell from 3.8% to 3.6%, lowest since December 1969, but that was because nearly 500,000 Americans left the labor force, which includes people working and looking for jobs.
Economists had estimated that 190,000 jobs were added last month, according to a Bloomberg survey.
Another positive: Job gains for February and March were revised up by a modest 16,000. February’s total was upgraded from 33,000 to 56,000 and March’s was revised down from 196,000 to 189,000.
Several crosscurrents were expected to affect April employment. Midwest snowstorms were likely to reduce job gains by about 20,000, Goldman Sachs estimated.
Meanwhile, the research firm estimated that early federal government hiring for the 2020 census would increase employment additions by up to 10,000. High Frequency Economics forecast a bigger boost of about 20,000 from Census-related hiring. Those jobs, however, are temporary.
The bigger question is how much slowing economic growth and worker shortages will crimp hiring this year. The European and Chinese economies have been sputtering, though the latter recently has shown signs of improvement. And the effects of U.S. government tax cuts and spending increases, which juiced the economy in 2018, are set to fade this year.
Hiring is also likely to slow because the 368% unemployment rate is expected to fall further, making it even tougher for businesses to find qualified workers. Average monthly job growth was a surprisingly strong 223,000 last year but is forecast to throttle back to about 170,000 this year.
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Wage growth steady
Average hourly earnings rose 6 cents to $27.70, keeping the annual gain at 3.2%.
Pay increases generally have topped 3% since last year as employers compete for a shrinking supply of workers. But they haven’t ratcheted higher in recent months, helping the Federal Reserve remain on hold as it waits to see if now-subdued inflation starts to pick up, forcing it to raise rates again, or if the economy weakens enough to prompt a rate cut.
Industries that are hiring
Professional and business services led the job gains, with 76,000. Health care and social assistance added 53,000; leisure and hospitality, 34,000; and construction, 33,000.
Manufacturing, which has been hurt by the global slowdown and U.S. trade standoff with China, added just 4,000 jobs. And retailers, beset by a long-standing shift by shoppers to online purchases, lost 12,000 jobs.