Job creation accelerated sharply last month, with payrolls growing at a better-than-expected rate and unemployment falling by an unexpected degree as well.
Nonfarm payrolls rose by 288,000 last month, the Department of Labor said Friday — the largest monthly gain in jobs in almost two years. Economists, on average, forecast payrolls to grow by 218,000, according to a survey by Bloomberg.
The unemployment rate, which is derived from a separate survey, declined to 6.3% — the lowest level since September 2008 — from 6.7%. Economists forecast the unemployment rate to fall to 6.6%.
The number of unemployed people fell more than 700,000 to 9.8 million, while the labor force participation rate fell by 0.4 percentage points to 62.8% in April, the Labor Department said.
Consumer spending and manufacturing picked up at the end of the first quarter after months of weather-related weakness. That boost gave employers the confidence to expand payrolls heading into spring.
In other positive news, previous labor market weakness was better than first thought. The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for February was revised up to 222,000 from 197,000, and March was revised up to 203,000 from 192,000. On net, employments gains in February and March were 36,000 higher than previous estimates.
However, as always, whether folks actually landed jobs greatly depended on the industry they were targeting. Here’s a look into the April jobs report:
April Jobs Report: Industry Highlights
Drilling down into the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ April Employment Situation Report showed areas of strength in professional and business services, retail trade, food services and drinking places, and construction.
Professional and business services enjoyed a third straight month of solid gains, adding 75,000 jobs in April. Leading areas for job-seekers included temporary help services, management of companies and enterprises, and computer systems design and related services.
Retail trade picked up after months of post-holidays hangover, as employment rose by 35,000 in April. The best places to find employment in retail trade were food and beverage stores , general merchandise stores, motor vehicle and parts dealers, and nonstore retailers.
Food services continued to be a bright spot for new jobs, as bars and restaurants added 33,000 jobs, slightly better than the industry’s 12-month average gain of 28,000 per month.
The construction industry saw payrolls expand by 32,000 in April, led by heavy and civil engineering construction and residential building. Construction hiring has accelerated over the last half-year. Of the 189,000 jobs created in the past year, almost three-fourths of the gain occurred in the past 6 months.
On the other side of the March jobs report, employment with the federal government continued to recede. Excluding the postal service, the federal government employment fell by 4,500 in April. Local government, however, saw payrolls expand by 17,000 last month.
Non-durable goods gained 1,000 positions in April, despite declines in jobs in food manufacturing and apparel.
Within the financial activities industry, credit intermediation and related activities declined sharply for a second straight month. Payrolls there fell by 5,700. Commercial banking payrolls contracted by 4,000 in April.
The wider healthcare industry reported job growth in April, led by Ambulatory care, which added another 12,600 payrolls.
Other industries losing jobs included amusements, gambling and recreation, and couriers and messengers.