After a tepid March report, US employment accelerated in April with 211,000 jobs created according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate fell to 4.4% from 4.5% in March, a historically low rate of unemployment. The last time the US unemployment rate was this low was May of 2007.
While the unemployment rate has been falling since 2009, many commentators and economists have raised concerns about the also falling labor force participation rate – or the percentage of adults working or looking for a job. That metric is now firming and in April was 62.9%, compared to 63.0% in March and 62.8% one year earlier.
The broadest measure of the unemployment rate, which includes discouraged workers and those working part-time for economic reasons fell to 8.6% in April from 8.9% in March. Last April the figure was 9.7%.
Perhaps most encouragingly, wage growth is also accelerating. Average hourly earnings in March increased by 2.6% and are now rising at their fastest pace in a decade, giving credibility to the Federal Reserve’s conviction that interest rates can be raised throughout the remainder of the year without endangering the growth of the economy.
While leisure and hospitality (+55,000) and food services (+26,000) supported part of the job gains, areas of the economy which traditionally pay more were also strong – health care jobs increased by 37,000, financial services by 19,000, mining by 9,000, and professional and business services by 39,000.
While the overall unemployment rate was 4.4%; it was 3.2% among Asian Americans, 3.8% among white Americans, 5.2% among Hispanic Americans, and 7.9% among African Americans.