US job growth surges and unemployment rate drops to 49-year low
Economy to celebrate 10 years of expansion in July, the longest on record
Hiring remains strong, despite anecdotal evidence of worker shortages in the transportation, manufacturing and construction industries
US job growth surged in April and the unemployment rate dropped to a more than 49-year low of 3.6 per cent, pointing to sustained strength in economic activity even as last year’s massive fiscal stimulus fades.
The labour department’s closely watched monthly employment report on Friday, however, showed steady wage gains last month, consistent with moderate inflation. The decline in the unemployment rate to the lowest level since December 1969 was because people left the labour force, suggesting some slack in the jobs market remains.
The report was broadly supportive of the Federal Reserve’s decision on Wednesday to keep interest rates unchanged and signal little desire to adjust monetary policy anytime soon.
Fed chair Jerome Powell described the economy and job growth as “a bit stronger than we anticipated” and inflation “somewhat weaker”.
“Employment gains are strong enough to dispel any immediate concerns over the health of the economy, while wage gains are not strong enough to force the Federal Reserve’s hand to tighten the policy stance,” said Harm Bandholz, chief US economist at UniCredit Research in New York.
Nonfarm payrolls increased by 263,000 jobs last month, amid gains in hiring nearly across all sectors.
The economy created 16,000 more jobs in February and March than previously reported. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast nonfarm payrolls rising by 185,000 jobs last month.
The strong economy, especially the labour market, could boost president Donald Trump’s re-election hopes next year. Mr Trump has touted the economy as being one of the big wins of his first term in office.
The economy will celebrate 10 years of expansion in July, the longest on record. Job growth is well above the roughly 100,000 needed per month to keep up with growth in the working-age population. The second month of strong job growth was further evidence that February’s paltry 56,000 increase in jobs was an aberration.
It also effectively put to rest concerns about a recession and diminished expectations of an interest rate cut this year that had been fanned by a brief inversion of the US treasury yield curve in March.
Hiring remains strong, despite anecdotal evidence of worker shortages in the transportation, manufacturing and construction industries, suggesting there is still some spare capacity in the labor market. Steadily rising wages have on balance been keeping workers in the labour force and drawing back those who had dropped out.
Though wage growth is not strong enough to drive up inflation, it is seen sufficient to underpin economic growth as the stimulus from last year’s $1.5 trillion (€1.3 trillion) tax cut wanes.
The economy grew at a 3.2 per cent annualised rate in the first quarter, driven by a surge in exports and inventories, quickening from the October-December period’s 2.2 per cent pace. The dollar dipped versus a basket of currencies after the employment report, while US treasury yields were marginally lower.