Unemployment Rose to 9.0% in April Despite 244,000 New Jobs

First impressions of April's closely-watched jobs report

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The Labor Department released its monthly unemployment report this morning. Here's a quick rundown of the numbers--as The Wall Street Journal puts it, "they're in... and they're good."

  • Nonfarm payrolls added 244,000 jobs, the biggest gain since May 2010. This is much higher than expected--economists were looking for a jump of about 185,000 jobs. Excluding government jobs, April had the biggest monthly employment increase in five years.
  • Unemployment crept up to 9.0 percent. Last month it was at 8.8 percent, a two-year low, and economists had predicted it would stay there. April marks the first increase in unemployment since November--although the Associated Press writes that the uptick happened "because some people resumed looking for work."
  • Manufacturing payrolls added 29,000 jobs. Retail added 57,000. The manufacturing figure is especially noteworthy: that sector has now added jobs for six months in a row, the first time that's happened since 1998.
  • On the other hand, government payrolls fell by 24,000 jobs. Finance and insurance lost 3,700, and residential building construction lost 2,100.
  • Average hourly earnings rose by only 0.1 percent. They were expected to rise by 0.2 percent.

Yesterday, a separate report from the Labor Department had a lot of people worried; it showed first-time unemployment benefit claims at an eight-month high. But MSNBC says that today's numbers mark a continuation of "the solid pace of job creation" seen in February and March.

The report does contains some discouraging indicators. The U6 rate--which includes part-time workers who'd like to work full-time, and unemployed people who've stopped looking for work because they don't think they can find anything--crept up from 15.7 to 15.9 percent. That's the first U6 increase in 2011.

And in April, 43.4 percent of unemployed Americans--about six million people--had been out of work for more than six months. This number is actually down from 45.5 percent last moth, but as the Journal notes, "the longer someone is without a job, the harder it is to find work."

Meanwhile, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus has already criticized President Obama over the report. "While any uptick in employment is welcome news," said Priebus in a statement (though actually, it was unemployment that showed an uptick), "today's jobs report shows that Barack Obama's big spending, energy-constricting agenda continues to leave economic relief out of reach for millions of American families and businesses."

Photo by Getty.

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