Job Gains Strengthen, Unemployment Rate Falls, Wage Growth Remains Above Three Percent

May 03, 2019

Payroll jobs jumped by 263,000 in April as the unemployment rate fell to 3.6%—its lowest level since 1969—while average hourly earnings increased 3.2% from a year ago—a level last seen consistently in 2008-09.

Job gains were fairly broad-based, with nine industries increasing by more 10,000.  The largest gains were in:

  • Construction (+33,000),
  • Health care (+27,000),
  • Local government (+27,000),
  • Social assistance services (+25,600), and
  • Bars and restaurants (+25,000).

Retail trade job growth remains under pressure (-12,000), but the large jump in hourly pay (4.7% from a year ago) may be holding back job gains.

Weekly earnings growth varies significantly by industry:  Information (5.5%), retail trade (4.7%), utilities (4.1%), finance (3.7%), and leisure and hospitality (3.7%) all have strong, above-average pay growth, while pay growth in manufacturing (1.9%) and transportation and warehousing (1.6%) is rising more slowly.

Looking ahead:  After increasing significantly from February to October 2018, the number of job openings has since plateaued and the majority of business economists are projecting payroll job growth to slow in 2019 to average 173,000 jobs per month.