The nation’s unemployment rate plummeted to 6.3 percent last month, the lowest level in 5½ years, as the number of new jobs soared to 288,000, the Labor Department reported Friday.
The most robust unemployment report since the end of the Great Recession showed a powerful bounce back from the depressed winter conditions that nearly snuffed out growth in the first quarter. But revisions also showed another 36,000 jobs were added during the winter months.
April’s blockbuster total of 288,000 new jobs was far above the 190,000 monthly average in the past year and reflected widespread strength in hiring from offices and retail outlets to construction and mining sites.
“Hot-diggity,” said Justin Wolfers, economics professor at the University of Michigan. “It’s a huge payroll report.”
Since some of the strength was a rebound from the anemic winter months, he suggested averaging the job gains of the last three months, which at 238,000 was still significantly above the economy’s performance last year.
The large increase in jobs in April brought the total number of jobs created during the five-year economic recovery close to the total number lost during the recession.
“We’re nearly back, baby,” Mr. Wolfers said.
Bill McBride, analyst at Calculated Risk, said the total number of jobs remains 113,000 below the peak just before the recession began in December 2007, although the number of private jobs now exceeds the pre-recession peak by more than 400,000.
“This shows the depth of the recent employment recession — worse than any other post-war recession — and the relatively slow recovery due to the lingering effects of the housing bust and financial crisis,” he said.
Part of the large drop in the unemployment rate from 6.7 percent to 6.3 percent last month was due to a whopping 806,000 people dropping out of the labor force, the department said. That left the share of U.S. adults working at a 35-year low of 62.8 percent.
But the gigantic rebound in jobs helped to drive down long-term joblessness by 287,000, easing a problem that had been particularly acute since the recession,
“After data [on Wednesday] showed a stalling U.S. economic recovery in the first quarter, the upbeat labour market data brings reassuring news on the health of the U.S. economic recovery,” said Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit.
“There were some downsides,” including the drop in the share of adults working, he said. “Perhaps most importantly from a policy perspective, average hourly earnings were unchanged. The lack of wages growth … points to weak underlying consumer spending growth.”
The yearly rate of wage gains slipped back under 2 percent to 1.9 percent, the department reported. Moreover, the average workweek was also unchanged, meaning that most American workers had no increase in take-home pay during the month.