UPDATE: The economy added 165k jobs in April, the Labor Department reported on Friday. That number was higher than economists expected. The unemployment rate ticked down to 7.5%. Labor also reported upward revisions for March and February jobs. The combined revisions accounted for 114k more jobs than previously reported.
The better-than-expected jobs report should calm fears that the automatic budget cuts of the sequester would be a heavy drag on the economy. Excluding the Postal Service, federal government employment is higher than last year.
At 8:30am EDT, the Labor Department will release its non-farms payroll report for April. Economists are predicting a gain of 140k new jobs for the quarter, with the unemployment rate remaining at 7.6%. This would be an improvement over March, which saw an anemic 88k gain in jobs, but still below the monthly average for the past two years.
On Wednesday, payroll firm ADP reported 119k jobs were added in April, well below economists’ predictions of 150k jobs. ADP and the Labor report aren’t a perfect match, but over time the general trends they report are consistent.
A key sector to watch in Friday’s report is retail. Big drops in retail employment in March contributed to that month’s very weak report. Consumer spending was strong overall for the 1st Quarters, but a number of economic indicators point to a slowdown in March. Retail employment will indicate whether that slowdown extended into April.
Another key number to watch is the labor force participation rate, the percentage of adults working or actively looking for work. In recent months, that number as been at or near 30 year lows. It is a good proxy for American’s general feelings about the economy, i.e. whether or not they have given up finding a job. If the LFPR were at historic norms, the unemployment rate would be much higher than 7.6%, since the Labor Department doesn’t count as unemployed people who have given up looking for work.
Check back for more updates.