Friday, May 3, 2013

What a difference a month makes

Last month's moaning and groaning about slowing job growth will and should be quickly forgotten. The latest national jobs report shows that the job market continues to improve.

This morning the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) made its preliminary estimate that non-farm jobs increased by 165,000 in April on a seasonally-adjusted basis. As importantly, the BLS also reported that last month's preliminary estimate of job growth (the source of the aforementioned moaning and groaning) undershot the mark by 50,000 jobs -- instead of adding 88,000 jobs in March, the BLS now estimates that the U.S. gained 138,000 jobs. The BLS revised February's growth number even more from 268,000 to 332,000. The figures for March and April are still subject to revision, so there's a good chance that the final growth figures will be stronger still.

The headline seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate continued to inch down, reaching 7.5 percent. The most encouraging thing in the unemployment figures was that the lower unemployment rate resulted from growth in both the number of workers and the number of people in the labor force.

The economy is still battling strong headwinds, especially from the expiration of stimulus tax breaks and the decrease in spending from the sequester. Some of these headwinds show up in the job numbers themselves. Overall job growth occurred despite the loss of 11,000 public sector jobs last month. Overall, the public sector has shed 89,000 jobs since last year.

It's gratifying that the rest of the job market continues to plod forward, even under such trying circumstances.