US added just 266,000 jobs in April, far below 1 million expected

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In a massive disappointment to economists, the US added just 266,000 jobs in April and the unemployment rate rose slightly to 6.1 percent, the feds said Friday.

The lower-than-expected data comes on the heels of strong gains in March, which saw 770,000 jobs added, about 150,000 lower than initially estimated, according to revised data published Friday.

“Notable job gains in leisure and hospitality, other services, and local government education were partially offset by employment declines in temporary help services and in couriers and messengers,” according to Friday’s closely watched jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The US unemployment rate remains far higher than the 50-year low of 3.5 percent reported in February before the pandemic gutted the economy.

Economists surveyed by Dow Jones expected the US to add one million new jobs and an unemployment rate of 5.8 percent. 

The newly released data disrupts the narrative of a rapid US economic recovery. Last week, the feds released data that showed America’s gross domestic product — the value of all goods and services produced here — grew by 6.4 percent from January to March on an annualized basis.

Outside of the third quarter of 2020, when the economy grew more than 30 percent, it was the best quarter for the GDP since 2003. And on Thursday, the Labor Department reported new weekly jobless claims dipped below 500,000 for the first time since March 14 of last year, signaling that layoffs are slowing.

Many economists are bullish on the future of the recovery — so long as vaccinations and public health measures continue to keep the coronavirus at bay in the US.

Over the past couple of weeks, major US companies reported strong earnings that indicated a robust pick-up in consumer spending and overall economic activity. Ride-hailing company Lyft, for example, reported stronger-than-expected ridership numbers Tuesday in a sign that US transit is gaining steam. And Amazon announced last week that it was hiking pay for more than half a million of its workers.

There are, however, factors holding the economy back. Prices of various commodities are surging due to shortages connected to supply-chain issues and other factors. The problems are driving up prices of consumer products from diapers to houses, and some economists expect the country to be grappling with inflation for months, at least.

And business owners, especially in the retail and travel industries, have said they’re struggling to recruit new workers. Some economists and companies have blamed pandemic-boosted government stimulus for making it more attractive to remain on public benefits than a private payroll.

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