Select Page

The U.S. economy keeps chugging along. It might even be picking up steam.

(Not that the stock market is in any mood to listen today.)

Nonfarm payrolls added 290,000 jobs in April, according to Department of Labor data released today, May 7. That’s well above the consensus projection of economists for an 187,000 increase. It’s the largest monthly gain since March 2006.

And the quality of the added jobs seems solid. Private payrolls, which exclude temporary workers hired by the government for the census, added 231,000 jobs. Only 26,200 jobs were temporary service jobs. So most of the gain consisted of private sector, full-time jobs.

Which goes a long way to explaining why the economy added jobs and yet the unemployment rate went up to 9.9% for April from 9.7% the month before.

More workers who had stopped looking for work—and who therefore don’t get counted in the official unemployment rate—saw a growing economy and decided to start looking for work again. That—in April the labor force increased by 805,000 workers–temporarily drives up the official unemployment rate but it is an important step toward getting the total number of unemployed down. The full unemployment rate, which includes discouraged workers and workers with part-time jobs who would prefer full-time jobs, rose to 17.1% from 16.9% in March.

Economists estimate that it takes a minimum monthly job growth of 110,000 just to keep up with the natural growth in the labor force.