Job growth held steady in April as payrolls rose by 428,000

Job growth in the U.S. held steady in April despite concerns about inflation and the impact of the Ukraine war on the global economy.

Employers added 428,000 new jobs in April, on par with growth in March. The unemployment rate stayed unchanged at 3.6%.

“After just over two years of the pandemic, the job market is remaining resilient and on track for a return to pre-pandemic levels this summer,” Daniel Zhao, senior economist at Glassdoor, said in an email.

Gains in leisure and hospitality, manufacturing and transportation and warehousing led the increases. Average hourly wages increased a robust 5.5% over the last 12 months, although that is well below the rate of inflation.

Signs of moderation

Although hiring remains solid, there are signs that job growth is slowing from its breakneck pace late last year. The average rate of monthly job creation has slipped from over 600,000 late last year to 520,000 this year. In another sign the labor market is leveling out, the share of Americans who have a job or who are looking for one fell in April, the first such decline in more than a year.

Small businesses have been scaling back their plans to hire since August, according to a survey by the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

“What’s not clear at this point … is whether the slowdown in payroll growth is a temporary hit triggered by the Ukraine war and the accompanying jump in energy prices, or an inevitable consequence of employment recovering most of the plunge triggered by the pandemic, or a more alarming downshift caused by the tightening of financial conditions,” Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said in a research note.

The Federal Reserve this week raised its key interest rate by a half-percentage point — its most aggressive move since 2000 — and signaled further large rate hikes to come in its attempts to slow down galloping inflation. As the Fed’s rate hikes take effect, they will make it increasingly expensive to spend and hire.

Record job openings

By other measures, the job market remains unusually tight. The Labor Department reported this week that only 1.38 million Americans were collecting traditional unemployment benefits, the fewest since 1970. Employers posted a record-high 11.5 million job openings in March, with layoffs remaining below pre-pandemic levels.

The economy now has nearly two available jobs for every unemployed person — the highest such proportion on record. And, in another sign that workers are enjoying unusual leverage in the labor market, a record 4.5 million people quit their jobs in March, evidently confident that they could find a better opportunity elsewhere.

“Looking ahead, we expect more workers to come off the sidelines in search of work and labor demand to cool as businesses feel the pinch from high inflation and tighter financial conditions,” Kathy Bostjancic, chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economics, said in a research note.

The Associated Press contributed reporting.

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