The U.S. economy added 165,000 jobs in April, according to an initial Bureau of Labor Statistics report, slightly above analyst expectations and suggesting the economic recovery, with the support of the Federal Reserve, is enduring despite the contractionary effects of sequestration and higher taxes that took effect at the beginning of the year.
But the biggest news from the Labor Department isn’t the topline payroll figure, or the unemployment rate, which dropped from 7.6 to 7.5 percent. It’s the revisions to reports from previous months, which are more certain statistically and indicate much stronger job growth this winter than initially believed.Initial figures indicated March was a weak month for job growth, but un upward revision from 88,000 to 138,000 non-farm payrolls suggests the labor market was much healthier than originally estimated. The February payroll figure, which had already been revised up from 236,000 to 268,000, was revised again, up to 332,000 — the strongest showing for any month in years.
What emerges from the new numbers is a significant drop off from February to now, though it’s not clear what caused it or whether it will dissipate with future upward revisions to the April numbers. One disturbing possibility is that the drop off could be a reflection of the impact of austerity measures on the economy, which would suggest that absent GOP unwillingness to replace or rescind sequestration, the continuing recovery would be much more robust.
The internal figures in the April report are fairly impressive.
Retail employment, which had appeared to fall last month, is up 29,000 jobs in April, suggesting sales have endured despite an automatic two percent increase in the payroll tax at the beginning of the year. Health care continues to be a major growth industry, adding 19,000 jobs lat month.
But the public sector continues to be a drag on growth. The private sector actually added 176,000 jobs last month, according to the initial figures, reflecting the loss of 11,000 government jobs. Post office layoffs account for 3,500 of those. State and local for another 3,000. The rest were federal jobs, which along with a slight drop in average weekly hours worked, is the clearest symptom of sequestration in this otherwise fairly strong report.