Hiring Like It’s 1969: Unemployment Hits 50-Year Low, Economy Adds 263,000 Jobs

May 3, 2019

The latest jobs numbers are out from the federal government. What do they mean for job seekers and employers? Here’s a quick take from Glassdoor’s Chief Economist Dr. Andrew Chamberlain and Senior Economist Daniel Zhao:

This morning’s jobs report revealed a roaring economy in April, with employers adding a robust 263,000 new jobs last month, well above the average of 211,000 new jobs added over the past year. Those job gains pushed the nation’s unemployment rate down to 3.6 percent in April — the lowest rate since 1969.

Wage gains remained steady in the April jobs report, with average hourly earnings up 3.2 percent from a year ago. That’s the same pace recorded in March, and reflects continued moderate pay gains despite growing labor shortages across the nation. In Glassdoor’s new monthly Job Market Report, median base pay growth has remained steady as well, hovering at a 1.4 percent year-over-year growth rate since February.

In April, the labor force participation rate dropped another 0.2 percentage points to 62.8 percent. A demographic wave of retiring Baby Boomers has been pushing that rate downward for years. And although a strong economy has temporarily lured some sidelined workers back into the job market, boosting labor force participation, that rate resumed its decline in April.

Among industries, the same three sectors that have largely carried job gains this year continued to lead in hiring: Health care, professional services, and leisure and hospitality. Those three sectors accounted for roughly 69 percent of all job gains during the first quarter of this year.

The strongest job growth was in professional and business services, health care and social assistance, leisure and hospitality, and construction. Professional and business services added +76,000 jobs alone. Health care and social assistance added +52,600 jobs, and leisure and hospitality added +34,000 jobs. Construction added +33,000 jobs as well, continuing an upward trajectory in the wake of a surprise drop in February.

One area of weakness among industries was manufacturing, which added only 4,000 jobs in April, signaling continuing headwinds in that sector. Retail (-12,000 jobs) also shed jobs last month, continuing a common pattern of weakness over the last few months. Government employment (+27,000 jobs) may have been temporarily boosted in April by a federal hiring surge ahead of the 2020 Census.

Glassdoor’s Job Market Report, a real time look at jobs and wage growth across the U.S. and in 10 major metros, also reported strong job openings growth for construction and professional and business services, signaling further room to run for those sectors. We’ve also seen a decline in job openings growth for manufacturing, consistent with slowing job gains and a negative indicator for the coming months.

The end of April marks 118 months since the end of the Great Recession — just two months short of the longest economic expansion in U.S. history since the 1850s. If the economy continues this surge of growth through June, we’ll be in uncharted territory in terms of length of time since an economic pullback. Going forward, we’ll be watching real-time job postings and salaries on Glassdoor for any signs of slowing this summer.

The economy in April roared ahead, despite trade uncertainty, fading effects of a federal tax cut, and a slowdown in online job postings. Today’s jobs report shows the strength and resilience of the U.S. economy despite more than nine years of steady growth.

To speak with Dr. Andrew Chamberlain or Daniel Zhao about today’s jobs report or to discuss labor market trends, contact pr at Glassdoor dot com. For the latest economics and labor market updates, follow @adchamberlain and  @danielbzhao on Twitter and subscribe to Glassdoor Economic Research.