February 29, 2024

Economix: 5 Answers from the Jobs Report

Yesterday, I posed five questions about this morning’s jobs report. Here are some answers:

1. Has the recent economic slowdown led to a slowdown in job growth?

No, at least not yet, and that’s easily the best news in today’s report. The economy added 244,000 last month. Over the past three months, it has added an average of 233,000 jobs. If you ignore the temporary Census hiring of 2010, the pace of job creation is the fastest since early 2006, almost two years before the recession began.

As Joshua Shapiro, an economist at MFR Inc., a research firm in New York, wrote this morning, “The wage and salary income that a labor market recovery, ev`en a subpar one by historical standards, provides to consumers will be key in providing fuel for ongoing economic growth in 2011.”

There remain reasons to worry. Above all, recoveries from financial crises are usually slow and uneven. High oil prices and Europe’s debt trouble aren’t helping matters. The recent rise in initial employment claims — some of which occurred after the period covered by this monthly jobs report — is an issue of particular concern. At least through mid-April, though, employers still seemed to be gaining confidence.

2. Has the crisis in Japan affected employment in this country?

Not much, it seems. Makers of automobiles and automobile parts added 3,000 jobs last month. That sector seemed most at risk of being affected by the tsunami, given the shortage of parts coming from Japan. But the addition of 3,000 jobs was little different from the recent pace of job growth.

3. Are the cutbacks by local and state governments becoming more severe — or perhaps less so?

The cutbacks continue at roughly the same pace. State and local governments cut 22,000 jobs last month. Over the last six months, the monthly average was 24,000.

4. What does the length of the work week say about business executives’ state of mind?

Businesses may be getting more confident, but they are far from wildly optimistic. The average work week in the private sector remained 34.3 hours in April, unchanged over the past three months. If businesses were on the verge of a hiring boom, an increase in the work week would be a leading indicator (given that companies often give their existing employees more work before adding new ones).

Fortunately for workers, average hourly pay did rise last month, by 3 cents, to $22.95. But it’s up only 1.9 percent over the past year. Weekly pay is up 2.5 percent. Neither pace is as fast as inflation (2.7 percent, according to the latest numbers).

5. Do the statistical details in the report offer reason for optimism?

Yes and no. The Labor Department did revise its estimate of job growth for February and March in a positive way, saying the economy had added 46,000 more jobs than earlier thought. But as these two previous posts discussed, the rise in unemployment rate suggests that the job market may not have been as healthy as some people hoped.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=f1280cd33c3a17bce046de29505a78a4

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