It’s time to celebrate: We have the lowest unemployment rate in 49 years, and wages continue to rise—especially for lower-wage workers.
On Friday, the Bureau of Labor statistics reported that in April, the economy created a whopping 263,000 jobs, and the U-3 unemployment rate—the one commonly cited—fell from 3.8 percent to 3.6 percent. The alternate measure for unemployment, the U-6, which includes those discouraged and underemployed as well, remained unchanged at 7.3 percent.
This is consistent with the larger pattern we’ve been seeing of the economy booming: Over the last year, our economy is averaging 213,000 jobs per month, and we now have 103 consecutive months of job creation.
At 4.2 percent the Hispanic unemployment rate is the lowest it has ever been, and at 3.1 percent the adult women unemployment rate reached its lowest since 1953.
Furthermore, the unemployment rates declined in April for adult men (3.4%), whites (3.1%), and Asians (2.2%). The jobless rates for teenagers (13%) and African-Americans (6.7%) showed little or no change.
Here are the primary job gains and losses in April:
- Professional and technical services: +76,000 jobs.
- Health care: +27,000 jobs.
- Construction: +33,000 jobs.
- Manufacturing: +4,000 jobs.
- Mining: -3,000 jobs.
- Retail trade: -12,000 jobs.
Continuing the good news, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 6 cents to an incredible $27.77. Over the year, average hourly earnings have increased by 3.2 percent.
In addition, lower-wage workers saw some of the largest wage gains. Wage growth for production and nonsupervisory workers increased to 3.4 percent. This shows that the poorest Americans are benefiting most when the economy is healthy.
In addition, the February jobs numbers were revised up from +33,000 to +56,000, and the numbers for March were revised down from +196,000 to +189,000. Factoring in those numbers, this means in February and March there were an additional 16,000 jobs created above and beyond those previously reported.
We have now seen nine straight months of year-over-year wage gains at or above 3 percent. Prior to 2018, nominal hourly wage gains had not reached 3 percent since April 2009.
This steady increase in wages continues to reflect that employers are competing to fill the over 7 million open jobs in America.
While the report is mostly good news, a little more troubling is that the falling unemployment rate might be partially fueled by a decrease in the labor force participation rate. Last month there was a 490,000 person decline in the labor force, which brought the participation rate down from 63 percent to 62.8 percent.
This means that people are either not working or have given up looking for work for various reasons. It could also mean that the number of people retiring increased.
The jobs report is just one measure of the overall health of our economy. However, with the recent gross domestic product numbers shattering expert predictions, the increase in worker productivity, and small business confidence being near record highs, we are seeing that good economic policy that encourages Washington to get out of the way is working.
Here’s a suggestion to members of Congress and the White House: Don’t squander this moment of tremendous growth and prosperity. It’s time to curb the out-of-control spending and debt that continues to threaten future generations with higher taxes and less opportunity.
Americans are doing their part to plan for the future by investing, hiring, growing, and spending. It’s now time for Washington to do their part.
Timothy Doescher is associate director of coalition relations at The Heritage Foundation's Institute for Economic Freedom.
Editor's Note: This piece was originally published by The Daily Signal.