US adds modest 164000 jobs; unemployment rate drops to 3.9 percent

5 things to watch in the April jobs report

5 things to watch in the April jobs report

Many employers though are struggling to find qualified workers in this tight labor market.

The American economy added 164,000 jobs in April while the unemployment rate dropped from 4.1 to 3.9 percent, according to new Bureau of Labor Statistics data released on Friday. And the share of people unemployed because they voluntarily quit their jobs is still considerably less than it was in 2000, the last time the unemployment rate hit 3.9%.

But 236,000 people left the labour force in April.

Ahead of the report, stocks were meandering between slightly positive and negative territory in anticipation of strong data but the major indices were mostly in the red.

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The closely watched average hourly earnings number rose by four cents, equating to a 2.6% annualized gain, a bit off the pace from the previous month.

But despite these gains, wage increases have barely kept pace with inflation.

Unemployment in the US hit a post Great Recession landmark, according to figures released Friday, while a separate report showed increased factory orders but declining capital investment for new factory equipment. Year-over-year, wages were up 67 cents, or 2.6 percent.

The average work week for all private employees was unchanged, at 34.5 hours.

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Over the past year, on a percentage change basis, however, it has been residential construction that has led the way in staffing advances, +5.1%, followed by non-residential building, +3.1%, with engineering trailing, +1.2%. Faster inflation could force the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates more quickly than planned.

Economists interpreted symmetric to mean policymakers would not be too anxious with inflation overshooting the target. Wage growth did pick up somewhat last month but it still remains sluggish. "This is clear evidence that despite the low unemployment rate, the economy is not yet at full employment". This 91-month expansion has made it the longest span of job growth on record. "But the modest softening in forward-looking measures like the orders components of manufacturing surveys and now the outright declines in core capital goods spending suggest limited upside to the outlook for capital spending at this late stage of the economic cycle". Hospitals added 8,000 jobs last month, down from 9,900 jobs in March. Manufacturing employment increased by 24,000 jobs in April after a gain of 22,000 positions in March.

The retail sector added 1,800 jobs.

Payrolls for temporary help, seen as a harbinger of future permanent hiring, rose by 10,300 after falling by 2,100 in March.

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Low unemployment also means higher wages as the employers are under less economic pressure and it means they can hike wages sharply to retain employees.

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