The U.S. economy added 288,000 jobs in April, the Department of Labor said Friday.
While that’s an encouraging sign that the economy is continuing to improve, the unemployment rate told a different story. That number, which comes from a survey of households, shows fewer Americans are joining the labor force and fewer people report they’re employed. These trends led to the unemployment rate falling to 6.3%, its lowest level since September 2008.
Bureau of Labor Statistics Commissioner Erica Groshen noted that the data suggest the decline in the labor force was primarily “due mostly to fewer people entering the labor force than usual, rather than to more people exiting the labor force.”
Given the millions of jobs lost in the financial crisis, even modest hiring is still not enough to put the huge backlog of unemployed Americans back to work. Long-term unemployment remains elevated with 3.5 million people out of a job for six months or more.
Economists estimate it could take at least another two years until the job market returns to its pre-recession health, when the unemployment rate was around 4% to 5%.
One of the strongest sectors for job growth is professional and business services. The industry added 75,000 jobs in April. Over the last year, this industry alone has added more than 660,000 jobs. That’s good news, especially because many of these are likely to be office jobs paying mid to higher level wages.
Retail, restaurants and bars — traditional low-wage industries — have also accounted for strong job growth.