Compared to recent reports, the April jobs numbers might seem like a letdown but in context they are quite impressive. The report contains some slight disappointments as the labor force participation rate ticked down. But let’s keep these numbers in perspective. Over the past three months, jobs have been added at a pace of more than a half million a month as the unemployment rate hovers just above 3.5%. Extraordinarily high levels of demand for workers is leading to fast job gains despite the low levels of joblessness. The outlook for the US economy is highly uncertain, but the labor market continues to be a source of strength.
Employers added 428,000 jobs in April, a number that would have raised eyebrows before the pandemic despite a similar unemployment rate. Even if this month’s number signals a slight slowdown in the pace of job gains, growing at this speed will continue to pull people into employment. If jobs gains were a quarter of what we saw in April, it would still be more than enough to keep the unemployment rate at its current level. A slight slowdown from here would still be sufficient to further tighten the labor market.
While the unemployment rate remained steady in April, the share of people with a job (the employment-to-population ratio) actually declined. But this decline in the employment-to-population ratio for prime-age workers ages 25 to 54 should be put into the context of its recent growth. Average gains over the past three months and the prime-age employment rate is still on track to get back to its pre-pandemic level by July. Another silver lining was that the employment rate for workers ages 55 to 64 also ticked up, continuing its recent rise.
The April report might not be as stellar as recent releases, but it still depicts a very strong labor market. The current clip of job gains is remarkable given how tight the labor market is. The labor market continues to have a lot of momentum. Pushing it off its current path would require something dramatic.