For the U.S. economy, it’s clearly the best of times and the worst of times. As the economy picked up an impressive 288,000 jobs in April, dropping the unemployment rate to its lowest level since September 2008 at 6.3 percent, there are still pockets of large-scale joblessness among African-Americans and young people.
Many economists who had seen numbers drop during the winter months attribute the good news to improving temperatures in April that led to a rise in consumer and business activity. But hidden beneath the encouraging indicators was this downer: the number of Americans in the labor force dropped 806,000 in April, pulling down the labor participation rate. In addition, there was no April rise in average hourly earnings.
However, there is no doubt that the overall economy is doing well, as government statisticians revised the number of jobs added in February and March by an increase of 36,000 total, suggesting the economy was stronger than first assumed. And the 288,000 jobs added in April was the best monthly increase since January 2012, while the current 6.3 percent unemployment rate is much lower than the peak of 10 percent in the wake of the recession in October 2009. But compared to past economic recoveries, the jobless rate is still higher than one would expect so many years in.
And the unemployment rate for African-Americans in recent months has held steady at about 12 percent, almost double the national rate — a trend that has been consistent for much of the last three decades.
Last month’s strongest sectors included construction, which gained 32,000 jobs, and retail, which added 35,000 jobs. In professional and business services, which serves as an indicator of the health of white-collar activity, there was an increase of 75,000 positions.
There was also an April rise in the Institute for Supply Management’s index of factory activity, which was announced Thursday.
“The second quarter seems to be starting out on a healthy footing,” Michelle Meyer, senior U.S. economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, told the New York Times, adding that the ADP survey out Wednesday of hiring among private employers in April showed the best monthly increase since November.