Black Unemployment Drops as American Jobless Rate Falls Slightly
The jobless rate drops by a tenth of a percentage point, stroking concerns that the economic recovery is slowing.
The monthly update of the national unemployment figure by the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that American joblessness stood at 8.1% this past April. Although the figure represents a drop of a tenth of a percentage point from the previous month, it disappointed some who were expecting a more drastic fall.
Employment grew in certain key sectors, like professional and business services and health care. It was, however, down in others such as transportation and warehousing.
There was a note or two of good news in the update. The unemployment rate for African-Americans, along with that for Asians, dropped the most (by a full percentage point) over the previous month out of all ethnic groups. The African-American figure stood at 13.0% in April; Asians recorded a 5.2% figure. Nearly all ethnicities saw either a decline or remained flat, save for whites (adding 0.1% to 7.4%).
The chief source of concern in the latest set of figures was the number of jobs added. At a total of 115,000 nonfarm positions, the hiring rate was notably lower than that for March (154,000) and in particular February (259,000). Significant changes were recorded in several categories, for instance transportation and warehousing, which shed 16,600 jobs over the past month in contrast to the nearly 2,000 it added in March.
On the positive side, retail jobs swung violently into plus territory as over 29,000 positions were added in April. This reversed a slide by almost 21,000 recorded in the previous month. Temporary help services also turned abruptly positive with a 21,100 gain after a 9,400 March decline. Another good performer was health care and social assistance, which continued its recent trend of adding strongly to overall job rolls. During April, the sector created 18,400 new positions, although this followed higher additions of 26,800 in March and nearly 50,000 in February. A similar pattern was recorded in the leisure and hospitality category, with results of 12,000, 52,000, and 45,000, respectively.
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For the most part, however, hiring levels in most private-sector job categories saw no major changes over the previous month.
On the back of general cutbacks at all levels, jobs continued to be sliced in the public sector. Government shed around 15,000 jobs in April, hardly a surprise after the 12,000 that were cut in March.
The financial markets and economists were nonplussed or disappointed by the figures, for the most part. Some observers feel that April’s results are an indication of a slowing economic recovery.
The Bureau’s statistics for April unemployment are scheduled to be released on June 1.