By Thomas Cooley and Peter Rupert
The release of April’s employment report from the BLS showed an increase in payroll employment of 211,000, with 194,000 of that from the private sector. An upward revision of 13k for February and a downward revision for March of 19k nearly offset each other. There were only a couple of small declines throughout the major sectors. In the goods producing sector, durable goods fell 3k and in the service producing sector, employment in information fell 7k, the third consecutive decline in that area.
Mining and logging employment (mainly oil) has increased for the sixth month in a row although still about 6% below the level in 2008.
Average weekly hours of work rose from 34.3 to 34.4 and has been bouncing between the two since March, 2016. Average hourly earnings rose 0.3% from $26.12 to $26.19.
The household data showed little change in the labor force, up 12k, while then number of persons unemployed fell by 146k, leading to a decline in the unemployment rate from 4.496 to 4.404, the lowest in about a decade.
While the Fed seemed to brush off a weak Q1 GDP report, then stating, “Job gains were solid, on average, in recent months, and the unemployment rate declined,” kept the door open for a possible rate hike at the next meeting. However, while job gains are “solid” the trend over the past several months points to a slightly weakening labor market. The question for policy makers is: Was the recent Q1 weakness transitory or, in combination with the downward trend in employment, has the economy weakened?