After last week’s GDP figures threw recession fears further into the long grass, a stellar set of job results is the latest sign of the economy’s strength — but it’s not all rosy in retail.
Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 263,000 in April, compared with an average monthly gain of 213,000 over the prior 12 months, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Wall Street had been expecting a 190,000 rise.
This helped to push the unemployment rate down to 3.6 percent from 3.8 percent, the lowest rate since 1969.
But while notable job gains occurred in professional and business services, construction and health care, it was a different story in retail, which saw employment drop by 12,000. Within that, department stores shed 4,700 jobs and clothing and accessories stores 6,600.
This was the third consecutive monthly decline in retail employment and the fourth in the past six months, which Lewis Alexander, an economist at Nomura said “highlights ongoing industry weakness”.
As for pay across the board, while average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 6 cents to $27.77, annual growth was unchanged at 3.2 percent.
After lagging behind the rest of the labor market, there had been signs in 2017 and 2018 that wages were finally starting to catch up, but the most recent figures suggest that any progress is now plateauing.
Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Amherst Pierpoint Securities, said: “Wage growth surged in 2017 and 2018 but leveled off over the last six months, perhaps reflecting the wave of new entrants into the labor force around the turn of the year.”