The U.S. added only 266,000 jobs in April, the government said Friday, far below the 1 million that economists predicted amid the COVID-19 vaccine rollout and gradual recovery from the pandemic.
The unemployment rate rose slightly, from 6% to 6.1%.
“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,” the Labor Department said.
Labor officials revised March gains down to 770,000 from 916,000, though it is still a huge drop-off and will fuel fights over the federal approach to regaining the millions of jobs lost during the pandemic.
Republicans say generous unemployment benefits pushed by the Biden administration and Democrats are incentivizing people to remain home instead of filling positions.
“This Jobs Report is a clear message to Joe Biden that his policies are not working,” the Senate Republican caucus tweeted from its official account. “This is not the time to raise taxes. Unemployment bonuses paying people more to stay home than to work are the wrong idea. That’s a disincentive to work.”
Others say workers remain leery of workplace conditions — the virus is still around — or have duties at home, such as looking after children.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Congress needs to back Mr. Biden’s multi-trillion dollar initiatives for physical infrastructure and “human infrastructure,” namely women and working parents.
“The disappointing April jobs report highlights the urgent need to pass President Biden’s American Jobs and Families Plans. We need to take bold action to Build Back Better from this crisis by investing in our nation, our workers and our families,” the California Democrat said.
There are signs of an economic recovery. Airlines are seeing more passengers as cities and attractions open up, and baseball stadiums are opening their doors to more fans.
But the job environment has also shifted dramatically under the pandemic, so some economists believe workers and employers are still sorting it out.