Chart of the Day: Net New Jobs in April


The American economy added 288,000 new jobs in March, but about 90,000 of those jobs were needed just to keep up with population growth, so net job growth clocked in at 198,000. The headline unemployment rate plummeted from 6.7 percent to 6.3 percent.

This is a decent result except for one thing: the unemployment rate went down because a ton of people dropped out of the labor force and are no longer counted in the totals. Nearly a million people dropped out, causing the labor force participation rate to plunge from 63.2 percent in March to 62.8 percent in April. The participation data is fairly volatile on a monthly basis—it went up 0.4 points during the first three months of the year and then dropped 0.4 points in April—but this is nonetheless a large and disconcerting decline that puts a serious damper on the otherwise good unemployment news.

Why? Well, some of the decline in the participation rate is just due to older workers retiring, but probably not that much of it. Rather, the BLS suggests that it’s mostly due to an unusual dip in the number of new entrants to the labor force, which is hardly good news. In addition, I suspect a big chunk of it is due to unemployed workers who have given up looking for jobs, though I acknowledge that the data doesn’t support this.

So: a mixed result. The jobs number is fairly decent. The labor force number is troubling. We’re still puttering along, but not much more.

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In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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