Economic Snapshot: Unemployment remains unchanged

While the numbers of long-term unemployed and discouraged workers are decreasing, the overall unemployment rate has remained relatively flat for eight months. In addition, the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey is essentially unchanged for another month.

Employment situation

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 160,000 and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 5.0 percent in April. Job gains occurred in professional and business services, health care and financial activities. Job losses continued in mining.

The number of unemployed persons was little changed at 7.9 million. Both the number of unemployed persons and the unemployment rate have shown little movement since August.

The number of long-term unemployed declined by 150,000 to 2.1 million in April. These individuals accounted for 25.7 percent of the unemployed. The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons was more or less unchanged at 6.0 million in April and have shown little movement since November.

In April, 1.7 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force, down by 400,000 from the previous year. Among the marginally attached, there were 568,000 discouraged workers in April, down by 188,000 from a year earlier.

In April, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased by 8 cents to $25.53, following an increase of 6 cents in March. Over the year, average hourly earnings have risen by 2.5 percent.


The number of job openings was little changed at 5.8 million on the last business day of March and the job openings rate was 3.9 percent. The number of hires edged down to 5.3 million and the hires rate was 3.7 percent.

There were 5.0 million total separations in March, little changed from February, and the separations rate was 3.5 percent. Among separations, the number of quits was little changed at 3.0 million in March and the quits rate was 2.1 percent.

NFIB small business optimism

The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index rose 1 point in April to 93.6. This is still below the 42-year average of 98. Five of the 10 index components posted a gain, four were unchanged and one posted a small decline.

The biggest increase in the index was owners reporting that they had job openings that were hard to fill, which suggests that not only are labor markets tightening, but owners cannot find qualified workers to hire.

Fifty-three percent of small business owners reported hiring or trying to hire, up 5 points, but 46 percent reported few or no qualified applicants for the positions they were trying to fill. Twelve percent of owners cited the difficult of finding qualified workers as their Single Most Important Business Problem, unchanged from earlier months. Twenty-nine percent of all owners reported job openings they could not fill in the current period, up 4 points, revisiting the highest level for this expansion.

The political climate continued to be the second most frequently cited reason for why owners think the current period is a bad time to expand. Small business owners who expect business conditions to improve in the next six months was the only component to decline and now sits at a net negative 18 percent.

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