290,000 New Jobs in April.


The latest unemployment numbers are out, and the good news is we saw both growth in jobs -- 290,000, the largest growth since March 2006 -- and growth in the labor force -- 805,000 folks -- suggesting that once-discouraged Americans are seeing opportunities to go back to work.

However, this combined to send the unemployment rate up a tick, to 9.9 percent. The all important U-6 number -- which measures the number of unemployed, people who have stopped looking for work, and people who have lost hours due to the recession -- also rose to 17.1 percent, the first time it has been that high since December.

Analysts expected around 100,000 new jobs in this report to come from census hiring (some 66,000 actually did), but they also didn't forecast more than 200,000 total new jobs, so April definitely exceeds expectations. Nonetheless, we can't help but underline that this is simply not enough growth to keep pace with our demand for jobs, demonstrated by the fact that the growth in employment, minus the census workers, is barely exceeded by the number of discouraged workers returning to the labor force, some 195,000.

The other scary number: 6.7 million Americans have been unemployed for 27 weeks or more, nearly half of the total unemployed.

What should reassure? The biggest chunk of recent job creation has occurred in the last two months, suggesting that momentum is increasing sharply. A number of sectors, including manufacturing, grew strongly. But to circle back around, the best news is that this is the largest jobs growth in four years. Policy-makers need to work to make sure the conditions for this increase, stabilize, and improve.

-- Tim Fernholz

Graph via Calculated Risk.

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