While concerns had started to mount that the economy was losing steam, Friday’s jobs report showed that the U.S. added 244,000 jobs in April. This was the largest gain since last May, when hiring for the 2010 Census had reached a peak.
Public sector layoffs continued last month, as governments at all levels deal with the legacy of mounting debt burdens. The private sector has seized the growth baton with the addition of 268,000 jobs last month. The rise was spread across a number of different industries and was the largest in five years. This improvement reflects the strengthening in not only profitability but business confidence, with the latter being the missing link for so many months.
Last month’s employment report was not uniformly bright. The unemployment rate ticked up from 8.8% to 9.0%, although this was still materially down from last November’s 9.8%. Workers also are receiving only relatively modest raises. Average hourly earnings in April were up 2% from a year ago.
With the various shocks we have weathered, including higher oil and food prices, supply-chain disruptions from Japan’s earthquake and tsunami, unrest in the Middle East, and public budget woes, the resilience or the U.S. economy is impressive. Job gains on the scale witnessed in April may not continue every month, but the employment picture is firming. This should be welcome news for graduating students, teenagers looking for summer work, and laid off Americans who might have started to give up hope. This is no longer a jobless recovery.