Forget about the sequester and recent worrisome readings pointing to slower economic growth — the pace of hiring in April accelerated well ahead of forecasts and the unemployment rate unexpectedly ticked down.
That calls for a sigh of relief after the previous month’s reading suggested that job creation was seriously sputtering out.
Payrolls jumped by 165,000 in April, the Department of Labor said Friday. Economists expected non-farm payroll employment to increase by just 140,000, according to a survey by Bloomberg.
In better news, the March payrolls report was revised up to 138,000 from a miserable initial reading of 88,000. The February figures were also revised higher, to 332,000 from 268,000.
And if that weren’t enough to spread some good cheer, the unemployment rate, which is derived from a separate survey, fell to 7.5% from 7.6% — a level not seen since December 2008.
However, as always, whether folks actually landed jobs greatly depended on the industry they were targeting.
Drilling down into the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ April Employment Situation report shows areas of strength in professional and business services, food services and drinking places, retail trade and healthcare.
Professional and business services added 73,000 jobs in April, led by temporary help services, professional and technical services, and management of companies. The increase in temporary help services is an encouraging sign, since gains in temp work usually serve as a prelude to more full-time hiring. The total employment category has now added 587,000 jobs over the past year.
The leisure and hospitality industry was also a decent place for job-seekers in April, as employment in food services and drinking places rose by 38,000 during the month. The food services industry created an average of 25,000 new jobs a month over the past year.
Retail trade was another area of relatively strong job creation last month, as employment increased by 29,000 in April, led by general merchandise stores and in health and personal care stores. The retail industry added an average of 21,000 jobs a month over the prior 12 months, the Labor Department said.
Healthcare continued be a good area for job seekers in April, led by ambulatory health care services like doctors’ offices and outpatient care facilities. The industry added 19,000 jobs in April and has averaged 24,000 a month over the last year.
Among the industries where new jobs were harder to find in April were construction and manufacturing.
Total employment in the construction industry declined by 6,000 jobs, as a pickup in residential building was more than offset by a drop in nonresidential specialty trade contractors. The six-month trend has been more encouraging, with construction adding an average of 27,000 jobs a month over the past half-year.
Manufacturing employment was unchanged in April, and other major industries — such as mining and logging, wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, financial activities and government — showed little change last month, the Labor Department said.