Friday, May 7, 2010

Job growth beginning to take off

The Department of Labor released its April jobs report this morning with mostly good news. According to the report, employment, as recorded in the household and establishment surveys, was up sharply last month. The household survey indicates that the number of employed people increased by 550,000 on a seasonally-adjusted basis, while the preliminary establishment figures indicate that the number of jobs increased by 290,000. Establishment figures for February and March were also revised upward. The March figures now indicate that 230,000 jobs were added that month rather than the 162,000 that were originally estimated.

Job growth in April was spread across nearly all sectors of the economy. Employment in manufacturing, services, and government were all up. The only major sector to see a decline was transportation and warehousing (a potential dark cloud for the logistics-heavy Greensboro economy).

Unemployment edged up to 9.7 percent, but this mainly reflected an incredible 805,000 people entering or reentering the labor force. The number of people who were unemployed because they lost jobs was down, while the numbers of people who were unemployed because they left jobs, reentered the work force, or were new entrants each rose. Overall, the percentage of the population that was employed rose to 58.8 percent, the highest percentage since August of last year.

It's not at all certain that this level of job growth will continue. The debt crisis in Greece is showing signs of spreading to other countries and provoking a wider financial crisis.

Two months of moderate job recovery, which have restored more than half a million jobs to the U.S. economy, are good news. Still, it will take another two and a half years at this pace to recover the 8 million or so jobs that were lost since the end of 2007. Let's hope for even better news.