U.S. Added Only 266,000 Jobs in April, Well Below Estimates

May 7, 2021 8:30 AM EDT

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  • Change in Nonfarm Payrolls (Apr) 266K vs 1M Expected, Unemployment Rate 6.1%


Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 266,000 in April, and the unemployment rate was little changed at 6.1 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Notable job gains in leisure and hospitality, other services, and local government education were partially offset by employment declines in temporary help services and in couriers and messengers.

This news release presents statistics from two monthly surveys. The household survey measures labor force status, including unemployment, by demographic characteristics. The establishment survey measures nonfarm employment, hours, and earnings by industry. For more information about the concepts and statistical methodology used in these two surveys, see the Technical Note.

Household Survey Data

Both the unemployment rate, at 6.1 percent, and the number of unemployed persons, at 9.8 million, were little changed in April. These measures are down considerably from their recent highs in April 2020 but remain well above their levels prior to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic (3.5 percent and 5.7 million, respectively, in February 2020). (See table A-1. See the box note at the end of this news release for more information about how the household survey and its measures were affected by the coronavirus pandemic.)

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men (6.1 percent), adult women (5.6 percent), teenagers (12.3 percent), Whites (5.3 percent), Blacks (9.7 percent), Asians (5.7 percent), and Hispanics (7.9 percent) showed little or no change in April. (See tables A-1, A-2, and A-3.)

Among the unemployed, the number of persons on temporary layoff, at 2.1 million, changed little in April. This measure is down considerably from the recent high of 18.0 million in April 2020 but is 1.4 million higher than in February 2020. The number of permanent job losers, at 3.5 million, was also little changed over the month but is 2.2 million higher than in February 2020. (See table A-11.)

In April, the number of persons jobless less than 5 weeks increased by 237,000 to 2.4 million, while the number of persons jobless 15 to 26 weeks declined by 188,000 to 1.2 million. The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more), at 4.2 million, was essentially unchanged in April but is 3.1 million higher than in February 2020. These long-term unemployed accounted for 43.0 percent of the total unemployed in April. (See table A-12.)

The labor force participation rate was little changed at 61.7 percent in April and is 1.6 percentage points lower than in February 2020. The employment-population ratio was also little changed in April at 57.9 percent but is up by 0.5 percentage point since December 2020. However, this measure is 3.2 percentage points below its February 2020 level. (See table A-1.)

The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons decreased by 583,000 to 5.2 million in April. This decline reflected a drop in the number of people whose hours were cut due to slack work or business conditions. The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons is 845,000 higher than in February 2020. These individuals, who would have preferred full-time employment, were working part time because their hours had been reduced or they were unable to find full-time jobs. (See table A-8.)

In April, the number of persons not in the labor force who currently want a job was 6.6 million, little changed over the month but up by 1.6 million since February 2020. These individuals were not counted as unemployed because they were not actively looking for work during the last 4 weeks or were unavailable to take a job. (See table A-1.)

Among those not in the labor force who currently want a job, the number of persons marginally attached to the labor force, at 1.9 million, was essentially unchanged in April but is up by 419,000 since February 2020. These individuals wanted and were available for work and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months but had not looked for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey. The number of discouraged workers, a subset of the marginally attached who believed that no jobs were available for them, was little changed at 565,000 in April but is 164,000 higher than in February 2020. (See Summary table A.)

Household Survey Supplemental Data

In April, 18.3 percent of employed persons teleworked because of the coronavirus pandemic, down from 21.0 percent in the prior month. These data refer to employed persons who teleworked or worked at home for pay at some point in the last 4 weeks specifically because of the pandemic.

In April, 9.4 million persons reported that they had been unable to work because their employer closed or lost business due to the pandemic--that is, they did not work at all or worked fewer hours at some point in the last 4 weeks due to the pandemic. This measure is down from 11.4 million in the previous month. Among those who reported in April that they were unable to work because of pandemic-related closures or lost business, 9.3 percent received at least some pay from their employer for the hours not worked, little changed from the previous month.

Among those not in the labor force in April, 2.8 million persons were prevented from looking for work due to the pandemic. This measure is down from 3.7 million the month before. (To be counted as unemployed, by definition, individuals must be either actively looking for work or on temporary layoff.)

These supplemental data come from questions added to the household survey beginning in May 2020 to help gauge the effects of the pandemic on the labor market. The data are not seasonally adjusted. Tables with estimates from the supplemental questions for all months are available online at www.bls.gov/cps/effects-of-the-coronavirus-covid-19-pandemic.htm.

Establishment Survey Data

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 266,000 in April, following increases of 770,000 in March and 536,000 in February. In April, nonfarm employment is down by 8.2 million, or 5.4 percent, from its pre-pandemic level in February 2020. In April, notable job gains in leisure and hospitality, other services, and local government education were partially offset by losses in temporary help services and in couriers and messengers. (See table B-1. See the box note at the end of this news release for more information about how the establishment survey and its measures were affected by the coronavirus pandemic.)

In April, employment in leisure and hospitality increased by 331,000, as pandemic-related restrictions continued to ease in many parts of the country. More than half of the increase was in food services and drinking places (+187,000). Job gains also occurred in amusements, gambling, and recreation (+73,000) and in accommodation (+54,000). Although leisure and hospitality has added 5.4 million jobs over the year, employment in the industry is down by 2.8 million, or 16.8 percent, since February 2020.

In April, employment increased by 44,000 in the other services industry, with gains in repair and maintenance (+14,000) and personal and laundry services (+14,000). Employment in other services is 352,000 below its February 2020 level.

Employment in local government education increased by 31,000 in April but is 611,000 lower than in February 2020. Federal government employment increased by 9,000 over the month.

In April, employment in social assistance rose by 23,000, with about half of the increase in child day care services (+12,000). Employment in social assistance is 286,000 lower than in February 2020.

Employment in financial activities rose by 19,000 over the month, with most of the gain occurring in real estate and rental and leasing (+17,000). Employment in financial activities is down by 63,000 since February 2020.

Within professional and business services, employment in temporary help services declined by 111,000 in April and is 296,000 lower than in February 2020. Business support services lost jobs in April (-15,000), while architectural and engineering services and scientific research and development services added jobs (+12,000 and +7,000, respectively).

Within transportation and warehousing, employment in couriers and messengers fell by 77,000 in April but is up by 126,000 since February 2020. Air transportation added 7,000 jobs over the month.

Manufacturing employment edged down in April (-18,000), following gains in the previous 2 months (+54,000 in March and +35,000 in February). In April, job losses in motor vehicles and parts (-27,000) and in wood products (-7,000) more than offset job gains in miscellaneous durable goods manufacturing (+13,000) and chemicals (+4,000). Employment in manufacturing is 515,000 lower than in February 2020.

Retail trade employment changed little in April (-15,000), following a gain in the prior month (+33,000). In April, employment declined in food and beverage stores (-49,000), general merchandise stores (-10,000), and gasoline stations (-9,000). These losses were partially offset by employment increases in sporting goods, hobby, book, and music stores (+20,000); clothing and clothing accessories stores (+10,000); and health and personal care stores (+9,000). Employment in retail trade overall is 400,000 lower than in February 2020.

Employment in health care changed little in April (-4,000), as a job gain in ambulatory health care services (+21,000) was largely offset by a job loss in nursing care facilities (-19,000). Health care employment is down by 542,000 since February 2020.

Employment in construction was unchanged over the month. Employment in the industry is up by 917,000 over the year but is 196,000 below its February 2020 level.

In April, employment changed little in other major industries, including mining, wholesale trade, and information.

In April, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased by 21 cents to $30.17, following a decline of 4 cents in the prior month. In April, average hourly earnings for private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees rose by 20 cents to $25.45. The data for April suggest that the rising demand for labor associated with the recovery from the pandemic may have put upward pressure on wages. Since average hourly earnings vary widely across industries, the large employment fluctuations since February 2020 complicate the analysis of recent trends in average hourly earnings. (See tables B-3 and B-8.)

The average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased by 0.1 hour to 35.0 hours in April. In manufacturing, the workweek and overtime were both unchanged over the month, at 40.5 hours and 3.2 hours, respectively. The average workweek for production and nonsupervisory employees on private nonfarm payrolls was unchanged at 34.4 hours. (See tables B-2 and B-7.)

The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for February was revised up by 68,000, from +468,000 to +536,000, and the change for March was revised down by 146,000, from +916,000 to +770,000. With these revisions, employment in February and March combined is 78,000 lower than previously reported. (Monthly revisions result from additional reports received from businesses and government agencies since the last published estimates and from the recalculation of seasonal factors.)



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