The American labor force expanded substantially in April, delivering a win for President Donald Trump who’s betting on the strength of the U.S. economy to get reelected in 2020.
The economy added 263,000 jobs in April, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday. The unemployment rate dropped to 3.6%, its lowest level since December 1969 when the Beatles were still together, Richard Nixon was president and man had only just walked on the moon. But that figure was mostly the result of a few people throwing in the towel on their job search.
The report provides further evidence of the economy continuing to recover, not cool as some soothsayers had predicted. In the lead up to the 2020 presidential election, Trump will likely continue to tout strong, sustained economic growth in his pitch to the American public.
“I’m sure we’ll see the White House is happy with the 3.6 unemployment rate and the continued strength of the job gains, and they’ll obviously be strong talking points,” said Julia Pollak, a labor economist for ZipRecruiter, who noted the economy factors heavily in presidential races.
After the government issued its monthly report, Trump issued one of his morning tweets.
“JOBS, JOBS, JOBS!” he tweeted, linking to a CNBC article.
However, one jobs report shouldn’t be read into too deeply. Voters consider many factors besides the economy, said Michelle Meyer, chief U.S. economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
“It’s hard to say that there’s something unique about this report that’s going to impact the outcome of the election,” Meyer said.
The number of jobs added surpassed the expectations of many experts. The median estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg was only 190,000 jobs — a swing and a miss too low.
Professional and business services added 76,000 jobs, the most of any sector. The construction, health care and social assistance sectors also added a sizeable number of jobs. The manufacturing sector didn’t changed much, remaining steady for the last three months, with 4,000 added jobs in April. That isn’t on par with the level of creation Trump promised to deliver.
“We’re running well off the pace of last year,” said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at MUFG Union Bank, referring to the 24,000 manufacturing jobs added in April 2018.
Rupkey also said consumers aren’t patronizing retail stores as much as they used to, even though they have the money to spend in this booming economy. Their spending habits have changed as they increasingly shop online rather than inside physical stores where people work.
In April, the retail industry lost 12,000 jobs, with 9,000 occuring in general merchandise stores.
“It’s been fashionable to think that brick and mortar stores are going out of existence for a while, and this year it does indeed finally seem to be happening,” Rupkey said.
Notwithstanding retail jobs, it’s been a breeze to find jobs for many in this economy.
Chris Sedillo, 20, celebrated a birthday last weekend and accidentally missed two shifts as a laundry attendant at an Omni Hotel in Corpus Christi, Texas. He was fired around 9 a.m. on Thursday. By noon, he’d applied to several openings through the job-seeker website Indeed.
“I knew that I didn’t want to go home and tell my dad, ‘Hey, I got fired,’” he said.
He ended up calling SpringHill Suites and landed an interview at 1 p.m. He got hired on the spot. His first day of work is on Sunday, and he planned to tell his dad Thursday evening.
“Now when he comes home, I can tell him, ‘Hey, I got a new job,’” he said.
Other workers aren’t having such an easy time finding jobs. For example, it’s been a challenge to find skilled workers for positions in IT and engineering, said Preet Kaur, a shareholder of Pacific Staffing, an employment agency that connects workers with employers and vice versa.
“Not a lot of people are able to keep up with all the changes in the world,” Kaur said. “It doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of people out there finding jobs, just not a lot of really good candidates.”
Of all the jobs that Pacific Staffing helps people find in the Sacramento area, Kaur said by far the easiest are temporary, customer-service orientated jobs like call center operator.
“There’s not a lot of skills needed in that,” she said.
The job market varies in many ways, and Sacramento — where some jobs are harder to fill than others — is an example of how a specific area could have its own challenges. Pollak, the ZipRecruiter economist, said it’s important to know the labor market isn’t just one market.
“There are such vast differences,” Pollak said. El Centro, California “continues to have double-digit unemployment rates, while parts of the country have 2% unemployment.”
But looking at the big picture, Pollak added, it’s a job-seeker’s market.