Employment Situation (April 2014), published by Bruce Steinberg


Quick Recap

The unemployment rate definitively moved down to 6.3 percent in April, a drop of 0.4 percentage points from March’s 6.7 percent. The calculation of the April unemployment rate was due to the interesting movements of its components parts. Essentially, although the number of employed persons actually decreased, the size of the labor force declined by much more at the same time there was a large drop in the number of unemployed persons. The April unemployment rate was the lowest it has been since Q3 2008.  (For more detail, go to the Household Survey paragraph at the bottom of this section.)

And job growth was relatively strong. Although this situation does not occur very often — the number of employed persons declining as the number of jobs increased — it has happened before.

So, even though the number of employed persons declined, employers added jobs to their payrolls to the tune of 288,000 in April. Revised data for earlier months were up — March is showing a 203,000 job increase and February was up 222,000.

Perhaps the strong jobs number in April was indeed a result of the rough winter suppressing employers adding jobs earlier in the year. But, what could account for the earlier months’ jobs data being revised upward? Perhaps a little statistical method called “smoothing” in order to make the job situation appear to be more realistic. BTW, “smoothing” is an actual statistical method, although some may call it more of a statistical trick while others may label it as ‘numbers mumbo-jumbo.’

Jobs Report

Total private-sectors jobs grew by 273,000, which was a nice improvement from the 202,000 increase of March and as well as to the 201,000 rise in February.

The number of jobs in the private Goods-producing sector grew by 53,000 in April, which was a good bump from March’s growth of only 29,000 that followed February’s increase of 48,000.

  • The Construction sector recovered nicely with 32,000 new jobs in April after adding only 17,000 in March and also better than the 24,000 new jobs it built in February.
  • Manufacturers did a little better in April (up 12,000) than March (up 7,000), but still fell short of the 20,000 it grew by in February; Durable goods increased by 11,000 while Nondurable goods, which is a little more than half the size of Durable goods, added only 1,000 jobs in April.
  • Mining and logging added 9,000 jobs last month mainly courtesy of its Support activities for mining sub-sector that added 7,300 jobs in April.

The private Service-providing sector added 220,000 jobs in April, which was a very nice increase from the 173,000 it added in March as well as the 153,000 it added in February.

  • The Retail trade      sector put together a second straight month of job increases with 34,500      new jobs in April on top of the 24,800 it added in March. In February, it      cut 5,600 jobs.
  • The pace at Wholesale trade picked up with a gain of 15,700 jobs in April that was much better than the 4,400 it added in March and a slight improvement from the 14,700 growth of February.
  • The Transportation and warehousing sector continued to recover with an 11,300 job gain in April after adding12, 000 in March but declining by 4,900 in February.
  • Financial activities trudged along with an increase of 6,000 in April, which was certainly better than the flat job performance in March but not as good as the 10,000 jobs it added in February.
  • The Professional and business services sector’s growth appeared to start to recover with 75,000 new jobs in April, which was better than the 52,000 it added in March, but still not as strong as the 82,000 it added in February.  Computer systems design and related services added 8,900 jobs in April that was much stronger than the 3,500 it added in March.  Management and technical consulting services, which is a smaller sector, grew by 5,000 in April that was only a slight improvement from the 4,700 growth of March.
  • The Education and health services sector added a total of 40,000 jobs in April; the sector’s highly seasonal Educational services sub-sector added 12,400. Growth in the Health care and social assistance portion was 27,900 with Home health care services adding 2,500 in April after adding 6,700 in March.
  • New hiring in Leisure and hospitality sector slowed the pace a bit with only 28,000 new jobs after adding 34,000 in March and 35,000 in February.

The total number of Government jobs was up by 15,000. The federal government shrank by 3,000; State government was up by 1,000; and Local government was up by 17,000.

Temporary Help Services Roundup

Although this may sound repetitive, it’s good to repeat good news. In April, Temporary help services again had some very strong growth with an increase of 24,000 to a record 2,855,500 (was up a similar amount — 24,700 — in March). This was growth of 0.8 percent from March and a 9.3 percent increase from April 2013. You may notice that previous month’s numbers were revised downward.

And Temporary help service’s market share — that is its portion of all jobs — again reached an all-time high to 2.07 percent.



Household Survey

The April 6.3 percent unemployment rate was a large decline from March’s 6.7 percent. As we said at the top of this column, this was due to some fairly large movement in underlying measurements of the employment experience in the country’s households.

That 6.5 percent unemployment rate was the result of a labor force that contracted by 806,000 and the number of employed persons declined, but by only 73,000. In addition, the number of unemployed persons decreased by 733,000. The number not in the labor force grew by 988,000.

The employment-to-population ratio was unchanged at 58.9 percent in April but was 58.6 a year earlier in April 2013 as the labor force participation rate dropped to 62.8 percent in April (was 63.2 in March and 63.4 in April 2013). The number of discouraged workers was down to 783,000 in April 2014 from 835,000 a year earlier.