The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the labor force grew by 428,000 workers in April, and the unemployment rate was unchanged at a post-pandemic low of 3.6%. Job growth was widespread, led by gains in leisure and hospitality, in manufacturing, and in transportation and warehousing. According to The Street, the figures contradict one of the most complicated labor markets in U.S. history, marked by a record rate of jobs quits over the month of March, and data showing some 11.55 million positions remain unfilled in the world’s biggest economy. The labor participation rate fell 0.2% to 62.2% and total employment declined by 353,000, according to the Wall Street Journal. Labor participation and the workforce have been trending up since January 2021 as lockdowns eased and vaccines rolled out. April represented the biggest labor participation decline since September 2020.
Demand for workers isn’t falling, as nearly every employer survey shows businesses are desperate to hire, with an estimated record 11.5 million job openings in March. The National Federation of Independent Business says 47% of small business owners reported job openings they couldn’t fill last month. Forty percent of owners have openings for skilled workers and 22% have openings for unskilled labor.
Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton, told CNBC that one factor behind the decrease in participation rate could be related to the latest Covid variant spreading across the country. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1.2 million people were out of work in April for sickness. “It’s over 20% more than during a normal flu season,” she said.
The Washington Post reports that Nick Bunker, an economist at Indeed, estimates 1.5 million older workers have reentered the U.S. labor market over the past year. Many are being pulled back to jobs by a combination of diminishing Covid concerns and more flexible work arrangements at a time when employers are desperate for workers. In some cases, workers say rising costs — and the inability to keep up while on a fixed income — are factoring heavily into their decisions as well. MarketWatch reports that the cost of living has jumped 8.5% in the past year, marking the biggest increase since 1982 Read More at Millions Retired Early During the Pandemic. Many are Now Returning to Work, New Data Shows
Equity & Inclusion in our Recovery
Overall, April’s jobs report carried both “good news and bad news” for women, Jasmine Tucker, the National Women’s Law Center Director of Research, told CNBC Make It. “We’re heading in the right direction jobs-wise, and it’s encouraging to see women gain jobs across a variety of industries, but unemployment levels are artificially low because hundreds of thousands of women still left the labor force last month.” Read more at Most April Job Gains Went to Women but 1 Million are Still Out of Work
CNBC reports that the unemployment rate for Black Americans dipped to a pandemic-era low of 5.9% in April, marking a new milestone in the labor market recovery from the Covid crisis. However, this rate remains significantly higher than that of the U.S. overall. When broken down by gender, the unemployment rate for Black men rose to 6.1% in April from 5.6% the month prior, even as nearly every other demographic group’s unemployment rate fell or held steady. However, the labor force participation rate for Black men jumped a percentage point in April to 68.9%. That shows more Black men entered the labor market but faced challenges in hiring. Alex Camardelle, Director of Workforce Policy at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, told Marketplace’s David Brancaccio, “If the unemployment rate was nationally what it is for Black workers right now, we would be in crisis mode” Read more at Black Unemployment Rate Falls to Pandemic-era Low in April and Who is Being Left Out of the Conversation When we Talk about Jobs?
Bloomberg reports that Hispanic joblessness among people over 16 also fell — to 4.1% from 4.2%. That’s a sharp improvement from the onset of the pandemic, when Latino Americans suffered the biggest blow from business shutdowns, sending their rate of unemployment up as high as 18.8%. Black and Hispanic women remain among the groups most on the sidelines of the labor market, with employment as a share of the population down the most since before the pandemic, compared with other Americans. Read more at Black Americans See Unemployment Rate Drop in Robust Job Market