Jobless rate steady at 3.6%; Firms claimed to create 406K jobs
Official jobless rates are at historic lows with companies looking for workers. | Wilfredo Lee/AP

WASHINGTON —The U.S. jobless rate remained at 3.6% in April, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported, as private sector firms claimed to add 406,000 new jobs that month. That put private firms almost at their job levels before the coronavirus-caused depression two years ago. Governments added 22,000 jobs in April, 77% of them in local schools.

The nation had 5.941 million officially jobless workers in April, 11,000 fewer than in March, BLS said. In February 2020, the last full month before the crash hit, there were 5.717 million unemployed.

Economic Policy Institute Senior Analyst Elise Gould reported the private sector has claimed to recover all but 0.4% of jobs firms said they shed when the crash hit. But public sector jobs are still down 3.5%, she noted.

“The labor market bounce back remains very strong as job growth over the last year averaged 550K a month. Strikingly stronger than the prolonged recovery from the Great Recession” of 2008, Gould tweeted. And Black joblessness fell below 6% in April, to 5.9%, she added. But BLS figures show it’s still almost double the white rate, 3.2%.

In another indication of recovery from the coronavirus depression, BLS reported “among those not in the labor force in April, 586,000 persons were prevented from looking for work due to the pandemic, down from 874,000 in the prior month.”

The business survey showed leisure and hospitality—hotels, bars, restaurants, theme parks, the arts, and museums—led job gains, followed by factories and health care.

Factories claimed to create 55,000 new jobs in April, rising to 12.729 million. Transportation equipment (+13,700 jobs), including cars and parts, led the way, with food plants (+7,900) second. Health care firms claimed to add 34,300, rising to 16.241 million.

Leisure and hospitality sector firms claimed to add 78,000 jobs, to 15.55 million. Gould noted, however, that sector was the one with the deepest crash from the coronavirus closures, and it’s still missing 1.4 million jobs.

BLS reported leisure and hospitality workers still toil fewer hours than anyone else—26 per week in April—and earn the least: $513.50 weekly. Second to last in both hours and pay, as usual, were workers in retail trade, at $683.57 in earnings and 30-hour workweeks.

Construction was one exception to big job gains in April. Its firms added only 2,000 jobs, net, to 7.628 million.  That still left 464,000 jobless construction workers or 4.6%. Only leisure and hospitality had a higher jobless rate, 4.8%, and 641,000 jobless workers. Some 3.2% (489,000) of factory workers were jobless.

Gould sounded one other cautionary note: Even with a tight labor market, wage growth in April, and in past months, has not kept up with inflation, now running at an annual rate of 8% or so. The Federal Reserve seized on that to raise interest rates again.


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.