The economy added 165,000 new jobs in April: Are we back on track?

The Week
Job seekers wait in line to attend a Long Island job fair on May 2 in New York.
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Job seekers wait in line to attend a Long Island job fair on May 2 in New York.

After a disappointing jobs report in March, the labor market appears to have rebounded

The economy added 165,000 new jobs in April the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday, narrowly beating analysts' expectations and easing concerns about a "spring swoon." 

The unemployment rate inched down to 7.5 percent, from 7.6 percent, the lowest rate since December 2008.

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Adding to the generally positive vibe were upward revisions for the last two months: Job creation in March was revised to 138,000, from an abysmal original estimate of 88,000, while February's numbers were revised to an impressive 332,000, from 268,000, making it the strongest month for job growth since May 2010. 

Economist Justin Wolfers tweeted, "Grading the jobs report: Robust payrolls growth, great revisions, healthy decline in unemployment. I give it an A-."

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Still, the labor market appears to be repeating a pattern in which months of strong job creation in the winter leads to a drop-off in spring. As Binyamin Applebaum of The New York Times tweeted, "So it's not a spring swoon so much as a spring growth-is-permanently-mediocre."

Federal, state, and local governments cut 11,000 jobs last month. The private sector, however, saw 176,000 new jobs, with the largest bump coming from restaurants and bars, which added 38,000 jobs. Retailers were next with 29,000 jobs. Growth in health care stayed on track, with 19,000 jobs.

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Despite the fact that the government continues to bleed jobs, the impact of the sequester — across-the-board spending cuts that took effect in March — remains unclear. Liberals contend that the labor market could be improving at a quicker pace without austerity measures. "All of this makes you wonder how much better the economy would be performing if Congress were not actively impeding the recovery with its emphasis on deficit slashing and sequestration," says Greg Sargent at The Washington Post.

In addition, job growth at the current rate still isn't fast enough to fill the hole in the labor market anytime soon. "The American economy continues to add jobs in proportion to population growth," says Appelbaum. "Nothing less, nothing more."

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But all in all, the latest report is a sign that the economic recovery is here to stay. As Neil Irwin at The Washington Post writes, "This isn’t a good economy. By a lot of measures it is still terrible. Still, we should be honest about what we have achieved: A durable kind of recovery that, if it can proceed for several more years, will eventually get us out of the muck. But it is also slow enough that the human toll of the crisis will be long and enormous."

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