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April 2021 Jobs Report: Unexpected Bad News

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To put it mildly, today’s report did not meet expectations. This might be one of the most disappointing jobs reports of all time. The labor market needs to gain 8.2 million jobs to put us back to where we were pre-pandemic, not accounting for the jobs that would have been created if the pandemic never happened. Every month job gains don’t accelerate puts us further behind. 

At least job gains picked up in the leisure and hospitality sector, where job growth is desperately needed. But the gains were not as fast as hoped for or, frankly, as needed. Employment in these industries is still almost 17% below pre-pandemic levels. Shockingly, in a period of quickly rising housing prices, construction industries added no new jobs in April.

Some measures of the health of the labor market did improve. The prime-age employment-to-population ratio and the overall labor force participation rate rose, but both are still depressed compared to their pre-pandemic levels. To put a positive spin on these facts, that means that there is quite a bit of potential for job gains to accelerate. 

Sometimes you have to accept unexpected bad news, move forward, and hope for better news in the future. April’s report isn’t what we were hoping for, but hopefully with continued progress against the coronavirus, we’ll see better numbers in the months ahead.