The Marketplace Report: Big Job Gains in April
ALEX CHADWICK, host:
Back now with DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.
Maybe the boss is smiling a little more these days. Maybe the boss is a little more confident about the economy. The Labor Department reports that employers created a surprisingly large number of jobs last month: 274,000. That's very good. Joining us now is "Marketplace" New York bureau chief Bob Moon.
Bob, was this--well, it was much better news that the economists were expecting.
BOB MOON reporting:
Indeed it was. The consensus of Wall Street economists was for somewhere around 170,000 new jobs, but employers ramped up their hiring by more than 100,000 beyond that. At the same time the Labor Department revised its numbers for each of the two prior months, and it now estimates employers added more workers than first thought in February and March as well. This news was received well on Wall Street because it eases fears that the economy might be losing steam. What these numbers suggest is that the economy is gaining traction and that the rough patch that so many economists have been talking about lately will be just that--a temporary patch. These numbers, by the way, were enough to hold the country's jobless rate steady at 5.2 percent, unchanged from the rate in March.
CHADWICK: So what part of the economy saw the most new jobs last month?
MOON: Well, actually, these payroll gains were widespread pretty much across the board. There were more jobs added in the retail sector, by health-care providers, by construction companies and by financial services. The one gray cloud with this silver lining comes again from the manufacturing industry, which lost jobs for the second straight month. And there was another sign of a growing economy. Average hourly earnings in the private sector rose by about a nickel last month to a record $16 for the month. And not only were employers adding more jobs, they were adding more hours. The average workweek grew fractionally to almost 34 hours. That's a signal that even more hiring might be in store in the months ahead.
CHADWICK: More hiring. How about interest rates? Is this going to affect interest rates? We saw a boost this month. What about next month?
MOON: Well, the Fed has been very sensitive to keeping inflation from overheating. This certainly doesn't suggest that the economy is in danger of stalling or stagnating. Of course, the Fed, as you mentioned, just boosted interest rates again earlier this week by a quarter percent to 3 percent. Economists are telling us today that this news is likely to keep the Fed on its so-called measured course of pushing interest rates gradually higher throughout much of the remainder of the year. As one economist said today, it shows that the economy has a lot of underlying strength.
And today in the "Marketplace" newsroom, we'll be looking further into the way the employment picture is developing. Alex.
CHADWICK: Thanks, Bob. Bob Moon of public radio's daily business show "Marketplace," produced by American Public Media.
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