After having expectations significantly lowered by a week of depressing numbers, the monthly jobs report came in on Friday as a pleasant surprise. The Labor Department claimed 165,000 new jobs were added in April, dropping the unemployment rate to its lowest level in four years. The markets are responding accordingly, with the Dow Jones average approaching a new milestone at 15,000 and the S&P 500 already breaking (again) its all-time record high.
Here's some more good news: Last month's disastrous number (originally 88,000) was revised upward to 138,000, and February's jumped to 332,000. That means an average of 208,000 new jobs each month for the last six months. The previous six-month average before that—during the heart of the 2012 presidential campaign—was just 138,000.
And there's even more good news! The unemployment rate improved from 7.6 percent to 7.5 percent, even though the labor force participation rate remained unchanged. Part-time jobs were up, average earnings were up, and the number of "discouraged workers" and long-term unemployed (people out of a job for more than six months) both dipped slightly. Again, not huge moves still going in the right direction.'
The 165,000 number is still not where economists would like to see it, especially when you're hoping to get an economy roaring again. But after this week's ADP employment report (a private survey that is usually seen as precursor to the Labor Department's) came in very sluggish, business watchers were bracing themselves for the worst. Everyone keeps waiting for the sequester cuts that took place in March to grind the economy to a full stop, but so far the effects are not being seen, at least not in the job market.
It's time to admit: The recovery has been remarkably persistent, and resilient, though we may wish it were more rapid.— Justin Wolfers (@justinwolfers) May 3, 2013
Oh, and one final piece of good news: The release of the report went off without a hitch, even though there was a fire at the Labor Department last night that closed most of the building and forced all employees who were working on the report to stay home.