Job totals disappoint again, but overall rate inches lower

Updated
 
Job totals disappoint again, but overall rate inches lower
Job totals disappoint again, but overall rate inches lower

We were getting spoiled. After a terrific three-month stretch from December through February, it was tempting to think U.S. job creation was finally on track. But as we’ve seen before, the first few months of the year aren’t always an indication of where things are headed.

The U.S. economy added 115,000 jobs in April, which fell short of already-tepid expectations, while the overall unemployment rate dipped slightly to 8.1%. As has been the case, there was a big gap in the public vs. private sectors – American businesses added 130,000 jobs last month, while the government shed 15,000 jobs.

It is the second consecutive month of disappointing totals, but there was a silver lining in today’s Bureau of Labor Statistics report – job creation in February and March were both revised up by a combined 53,000 jobs. It offers a reminder that these initial estimates are just that – initial estimates – and that overreacting to new reports generally isn’t a good idea.

That doesn’t change the fact, however, that 115,000 obviously isn’t good enough. It’s a figure that barely keeps up with population growth, and is roughly half of what the economy should be producing as part of a larger recovery. Ideally, policymakers would see data like this and take steps to boost job creation, but given the Republican agenda in Congress, that’s no longer an option.

The overall economy has now added over 2 million jobs over the last year, and nearly 3.5 million jobs over the last three years. For America’s private sector, it’s 2.3 million over the last year, and 4 million over the last three years.

Incidentally, the 8.1% unemployment rate is the lowest since before President Obama took office, but as we’ve talked about before, that’s not necessarily the best metric for looking at the overall jobs landscape, and in April, it was largely the result of people dropping out of the workforce.

And with that, here’s the chart I run on the first Friday of every month, showing monthly job losses since the start of the Great Recession. The image makes a distinction – red columns point to monthly job totals under the Bush administration, while blue columns point to job totals under the Obama administration. (By popular demand, it now has an x axis.)

Update: Here’s another chart, this one showing monthly job losses/gains in just the private sector since the start of the Great Recession.

Job totals disappoint again, but overall rate inches lower
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Job totals disappoint again, but overall rate inches lower

Updated