U.S. economy added 288,000 jobs in April in latest estimates; unemployment rate plummets to 6.3%

Before we get too excited — or too worried — about today’s seemingly upbeat employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, you might want to take a look at this excellent analysis at the NYT’s The Upshot, which details the high degree of variability in the month-to-month estimates purely because of statistical noise.

But, anyway, it’s clear that these solid numbers reveal a continued recovery in the American job market — and perhaps a recovery that is becoming more robust.

From the BLS:

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 288,000, and the unemployment rate fell by 0.4 percentage point to 6.3 percent in April, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Employment gains were widespread, led by job growth in professional and business services, retail trade, food services and drinking places, and construction.

Household Survey Data

In April, the unemployment rate fell from 6.7 percent to 6.3 percent, and the number of unemployed
persons, at 9.8 million, decreased by 733,000. Both measures had shown little movement over the prior
4 months. Over the year, the unemployment rate and the number of unemployed persons declined by 1.2
percentage points and 1.9 million, respectively.

Screen shot 2014-05-02 at 8.53.32 AM

Screen shot 2014-05-02 at 8.53.25 AM

The cause for concern in the data is a rather sharp decline in the participation rate to 62.8 percent — that’s down .4 percent over the month but only down .6 percent over the year. As I’ve discussed here before, it has become really difficult to tease out the various causes for the decline in the participation rate, but a significant part of the decline has to do with demographics (i.e., the aging and retirement of Baby Boomers).

For men 16-64, the participation rate is 81.5 percent, down just .4 percent over the last year. For women 16-64, the rate has held steady over the past year at 70.2 percent.

So I’m generally encouraged by this data and the steady — if at times painfully slow — employment recovery.