The U.S. economy added 164,000 jobs in April and unemployment ticked down to 3.9 percent, the lowest since before the bursting of the tech bubble at the end of the last century.
Economists had forecast nonfarm payrolls to grow by 192,000 and unemployment to tick down from 4.1 percent to 4.0 percent, according to Thomson Reuters. The unemployment rate had been stuck at 4.1 percent for sixth months.
April’s employment report showed that hiring has snapped back from a particularly weak March when the economy added just 135,000 jobs, according to the revised figure released Friday. Initially, March was reported to have added just 103,000 jobs. March’s weakness was likely due to harsh weather and payback from a particularly strong hiring month in February, which added 324,000 jobs after Friday’s revisions.
The upward revision of March’s numbers may help explain why April’s numbers fell short of expectations. The 30,000 or so jobs that weren’t created in April were actually created earlier in the year.
The black unemployment rate fell to a seasonally adjusted 6.6 percent, the lowest figure on record. Because the white unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.6 percent, the gap between white and black unemployment narrowed.
Job growth was broad-based. Professional services, manufacturing, mining, and health care all added jobs. Manufacturing saw employment grow by 24,000 jobs. Over the past 12 months, manufacturing has added 245,000 jobs.
Wage growth was weaker than expected, indicating that wages rose at the equivalent of an annualized rate of 2.6 percent. Economists had expected a 2.7 percent rate, according to Thomson Reuters. The level of wage growth is considered an important factor in attracting Americans to return to the workforce.
The long-term post-World War II average unemployment rate in the United States is 5.78 percent.