The April jobs report, just out from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is a distinct disappointment.
While many were expecting as many as a million new jobs as the COVID pandemic continues to wane and cities and businesses begin to reopen, the number came in at a mere 266,000. That’s down from the 770,000 jobs added in March and the 536,000 in February.
As a result, while economists had been expecting an unemployment rate of 5.8 percent, it actually ticked up a tenth of a percent to 6.1 percent.
Part of the reason is that businesses are having trouble hiring people, as shown by the rapidly growing number of “We’re hiring!” signs around the country. This owes to what many regard as overly-generous unemployment benefits from the federal government. It doesn’t take a latter-day Adam Smith to figure out that if a worker can get more money from not working than he can from working, he will probably stay home. Federal unemployment benefits are scheduled to expire in September and most economists think that date can’t come too soon.
Still, there is some good news to note. Last week’s new unemployment claims, 498,000, are the lowest since the pandemic began in March 2020. The leisure and hospitality sector saw an increase of 331,000 jobs last month as restrictions on bars and restaurants were eased. Accommodation saw 54,000 new jobs and airlines added 7,000 as travel has picked up.
And the percentage of people who are still teleworking, to use the new word summoned into existence by the pandemic, fell from 21 percent in March to 18.3 percent. If that trend continues, it will be very good news for the mass transportation systems that have been devastated by the collapse in commuting.