Employers Added 290,000 Workers In April
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.
Two hundred ninety thousand. That's how many jobs the economy created last month, and it's the largest gain we've seen in four years. At the same time, though, the government reports that the unemployment rate rose, to 9.9 percent. And to put those numbers together and make sense out of them, NPR's Tamara Keith joins us now. Good morning.
TAMARA KEITH: Good morning.
MONTAGNE: How do you explain why the unemployment rate would rise even as it appears there is solid job growth?
KEITH: Well, it's the old hope problem. In April, 195,000 people who had given up and dropped out of the workforce, they came back and they started looking for work again. They saw other people getting jobs and they had hope.
But one of the tricky things with the unemployment rate is that it only counts people who are actively looking for work. So when people start to come back, the unemployment rate actually starts to look worse than it did before.
But this report also contains a lot of good news that we shouldn't miss. Two hundred and ninety thousand jobs created is a blockbuster number, and they also revised the numbers from February and March, revised them upwards, showing that we had even better growth back then than we previously thought.
MONTAGNE: And before this report came out, there was a lot of talk about temporary hiring, and actually one big place where people could get hired would be the census.
Now we've got the numbers. How many census workers were actually hired in April?
KEITH: Sixty-six thousand, which is actually a bit lower than economists had been predicting. So in reality, this number is real. You only have to subtract 66,000 from it to get the private sector job growth.
MONTAGNE: You're saying private sector. That means that's where these other jobs came from.
KEITH: Yes. And generally economists say that private sector job growth is what's important here. Manufacturing was huge. They added 45,000 jobs in April. Combined with the last few months, manufacturing has added more than 100,000 jobs. Now, you have to put this into context, that a year ago manufacturing was losing 150,000 jobs a month. But there's certainly an upswing here across many sectors. And the fact is that the economy has in fact been growing for 10 months now, so eventually we had to see some job growth.
MONTAGNE: Are there any other clues(ph) here about where things may be headed?
KEITH: Well, temp jobs, which are non-census private sector temp jobs, there were 26,000 of those, which is fewer than many had been expecting and may be a sign that employers are actually hiring people permanently now.
Also, the average work week increased. It's now up to 34.1 hours. And that means people are making more money and can spend more money out in the economy. It also means that employers might be closer to needing to hire more workers, because they're pushing their current employees harder and farther and actually in some cases having to have them work overtime.
On the downside, there's this other indicator that we keep watching, which is long-term unemployment, and the number of people who have been out of work for six months or more is now up to 6.7 million. That's almost half of the people who are unemployed.
MONTAGNE: NPR's business reporter Tamara Keith. Thanks very much for joining us.
KEITH: You're welcome.
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