U.S. employment figures for the month of April surprised most investors. Employers nationwide added a better-than-expected 165,000 people to their payrolls last month. The Labor Department also reported that the national unemployment rate edged down from 7.6% to 7.5% in April, the lowest rate since December 2008.
In addition, payroll gains for the months of February and March were revised upward by a total of 114,000 jobs. Monthly job growth so far in 2013 has averaged 196,000 jobs versus 183,000 jobs for all of 2012. This has eased concerns among economists and in the financial markets that the U.S. economy may be headed into a mid-year economic slump.
The chief economist of High Frequency Economics, Jim O’Sullivan, told USA Today that the surprisingly good labor report indicated that the anticipated slowdown due to the federal government’s sequester may be more modest than originally thought. He estimates monthly job growth could average about 165,000 jobs per month over the next few months before accelerating to 200,000+ jobs per month in the fourth quarter.
Another good piece of data regarding employment in the country was issued on Thursday. Initial jobless claims fell by 18,000 to 324,000 in the week ended April 27. This was the lowest jobless claims number in over five years, since January 2008. O’Sullivan said this number supported his view that the recent slowdown was due to a mild January and February that pulled forward economic activity from a colder-than-usual March and April.