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12 May 2017, 12:33 | Maryann Sutton
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New applications for USA jobless benefits fell sharply last week and the number of Americans on unemployment rolls hit a 17-year low, pointing to a tightening labour market that could allow the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates next month.
Employers added 79,000 jobs in March, partly because of a snowstorm that weighed on economic activity, revised figures released by the government Friday showed. The new report adds to evidence that the job market remains healthy. That industry sector has added 612,000 jobs over the past 12 months. The bulk of the job gains in April came from leisure and hospitality, education and health, and business services but even beleaguered sectors such as mining and manufacturing showed growth.
With the stronger than expected job growth, the unemployment rate edged down to 4.4% in April from 4.5% in March.
An unemployment rate of anything under 5% is considered to indicate full employment.
While the national unemployment rate of 4.4% marks almost a full return to pre-crisis levels, unemployment in some segments of the population is far higher. For instance, the U-6 rate measure that covers individuals who gave up looking for a job, or those who work part-time but want to work full-time, dropped to 86 percent in April, the lowest level in the past decade.
In April, average hourly earnings rose 7 cents to $26.19, following a 5-cent increase in March.
Nevertheless, Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC, said "the U.S. job market is in solid shape", withthe economy "approaching full employment". "The Fed will respond accordingly".
All that put together, then, the United States central bank-the Federal Reserve-cited that this slow-down was largely responsible for its decision not to change the interest rate.
The rate reduction was fostered by an 211,000 increase in nonfarm payrolls.
The drop in youth participation helped push the jobless rate down by 0.2 percentage points in April even though overall employment was nearly unchanged.
Average hourly wage growth remained muted, rising just 0.5 percent in April compared with a year earlier.
The economy grew at a lackluster 0.7 percent rate in the January-March quarter, down from a 2.1 percent rate in the fourth quarter. A broader measure of unemployment, which counts unemployed people, discouraged workers and those working part-time who can't find full-time work, also dropped to a almost 10-year low, at 8.6 percent.
The muted wage growth was likely to keep the central bank on the sidelines in terms of monetary policy changes, said Paul Ferley, assistant chief economist at RBC.
The Fed raised rates by a quarter of a percentage point in March and has forecast two more increases this year.
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