New job creation in April surges ahead of expectations, unemployment rate falls to 49-year low
The U.S. labor market charged ahead in April.
The economy added 263,000 non-farm payrolls for the month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday. This topped expectations for 190,000 new positions, according to consensus estimates compiled by Bloomberg. March’s payroll additions were downwardly revised to 189,000, from 196,000 previously.
The unemployment rate fell to 3.6% for the month, the lowest level since December 1969. Consensus economists had anticipated that unemployment would hold at March’s 3.8% rate.
Meanwhile, the labor force participation rate fell slightly from the month prior to 62.8%, but was unchanged from the year prior. The broad U-6 gauge of unemployment – which captures the underemployed as well as those who have ceased looking for jobs and – held at 7.3%, the same level seen in both February and March.
Average hourly earnings rose 0.2% month-over-month and 3.2% year-over-year, the same paces seen in March. Consensus economists had anticipated hourly wages to increase 0.3% on a monthly basis and 3.3% on an annual basis.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics report comes on the heels of mixed employment data from other closely watched labor market indicators. ADP/Moody’s reported earlier this week that private payrolls increased by 275,000 in April, or nearly 100,000 positions more than expected.
Meanwhile, the economy on the whole has shown signs of trending higher in recent months, based on the much stronger-than-expected reading on first-quarter GDP last week. Based on that report, the U.S. economy grew at a pace of 3.2% in the first three months of the year, surging ahead of consensus expectations for 2.3% growth.
Friday’s jobs report comes just two days following the Federal Reserve’s Wednesday latest monetary policy decision and commentary from Fed Chair Jerome Powell – but don’t expect the Fed to be swayed by any gyrations in the headline payrolls number, some analysts said.
“I think the Fed has really moved to the sidelines, because they’re concerned about just keeping the expansion going. If anything, I think what really brings them back into play will be inflation that starts to overheat,” Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer for Independent Advisor Alliance, said in an interview with Yahoo Finance ahead of the release of the jobs report. “Right now, I think they’re very happy with where the jobs picture is.”
On Wednesday, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) decided to keep key interest rates unchanged at a band of between 2.25% and 2.5%, with Powell subsequently telegraphing that the central bank does not see a “strong case” to change interest rates in either direction at this point.
In the statement, the FOMC noted that “job gains have been solid, on average, in recent months, and the unemployment rate has remained low.” Powell also said that he saw no signs of an overheating economy, and that wages have grown at an “appropriate” rate.
“It seems like they’ve decided that they’re not going to get alarmed by any particular jobs report,” Zaccarelli said.
Instead, central bank officials will be more fixated on inflationary signals, after Powell said Wednesday he believed factors contributing to the current low levels of inflation were “transitory.” While average hourly wages serve as one indicator of inflation, that metric isn’t as closely watched by Fed officials as their preferred gauge of underlying inflation, or core personal consumption expenditures (PCE).
“They still believe very strongly in that relationship between low unemployment and higher inflation, which so far has not shown up in the data recently. I think they still believe that is a central tenet,” Zaccarelli said. “To my mind, the jobs report is probably going to be a little bit less on their minds right now.”
This is a developing post. Check back for updates.
Emily McCormick is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @emily_mcck
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