Tea Leaf: U.S. job situation looks better still

Published: Tuesday, May 10 2011 4:00 p.m. MDT

Private-sector, service-providing employment rose in April by 224,000 positions. Professional and business services added 51,000 jobs, while retail trade added 57,000 jobs. The retail trade job rise was the largest in 11 years, although a later Easter holiday may have skewed the seasonal adjustment a bit, according to bloomberg.com.

Financial activities employment rose by 4,000 positions. The education and health services sector added 49,000 jobs, while leisure and hospitality added 46,000 jobs. As noted before, overall government employment fell by 24,000 positions during the month.

Key numbers

 The number of people counted as unemployed rose by 205,000 in April to 13.7 million.

 The number of people who have been out of work for six months or more fell by 283,000 to 5.8 million in April. How many of these people found jobs, versus how many simply stopped looking for work — and are no longer counted as unemployed — is unknown.

 The number of Americans unemployed for less than five weeks jumped by 242,000 to 2.7 million, supporting weekly jobless claim numbers of recent weeks that had risen sharply.

 The "underemployment" rate — that which includes the unemployed, those working part time who would prefer to work full time and those discouraged workers who have left the labor force but would accept a job if one were offered — rose to 15.9 percent in April from 15.7 percent in March.

From here?From here?

We have boosted our estimate of American job gains this year from 2.4 million to 2.6 million. Thousands of employers, who cut employment aggressively during the Great Recession while also adding new equipment to boost productivity, have pushed about as far as they can in regard to worker output.

Additional workers will need to be added by employers in coming months to meet the demands of solid global opportunities and what is likely to be stronger U.S. economic growth than occurred during 2011's first quarter. Stay tuned.

Jeff Thredgold is the chief economist for Zions Bank and founder of Thredgold Economic Associates, a professional speaking and economic consulting firm. Visit www.thredgold.com.

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