Hiring in April stalled out, even if the jobless rate dipped.
This has been the third-longest economic expansion since World War II. And while there’s no particular reason to think it is ending, its very longevity raises questions.
So the latest report from the state Department of Labor makes you wonder: was it a month of quirky data, a very normal pause after three strong months or was it a warning sign that the economy is reaching an inflection point?
The Georgia economy lost 2,800 jobs during the month.
Yes, the unemployment rate dipped at the same time, but note: that rate and the job number come from two different government surveys.
They usually move in the same direction. When they don’t for a month, no biggie. That is, unless one has picked up a change that the other just hasn’t hit yet.
The number of people employed is up, even though the number of jobs has faltered. They are from different surveys, yes. But sometimes that is a sign that many people are taking part-time jobs or taking more than one job.
Here are the alarms, faint though they may be:
-- Usually the economy adds jobs in April. During the past five years, the month has averaged growth of 7,600 more jobs.
-- The job loss in April was spread across a wide swath of the economy.
-- Worse than the breadth, some key sectors were weak. If that continues, it could mean drivers of growth like household spending and international trade are sputtering.
-- Leisure and hospitality may not account for high-paying jobs, but it supplies a lot of them and its health is a sign of good consumer spending. It lost jobs.
-- Logistics and retail were down, a combination of consumer demand and the vibrancy of trade.
-- Corporate hiring fell.
-- Construction jobs declined, a sign that building might have peaked.
-- The number of people entering the labor force surged in April. So while the rate of joblessness has dropped, that flow has not been met with stepped-up hiring. The result is that the actual number of officially unemployed has stayed stubbornly about the quarter-million mark. That’s a lot of people.
Anyhow, April is only one month. Could be just a gathering of collective energy before the splurge of post-graduation hiring. Could be just the quirk of one month’s data.
Could be the numbers are whispering something about an inflection point.
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AJC Business reporter Michael E. Kanell keeps you updated on the latest news about jobs, housing and consumer issues in metro Atlanta and beyond. You'll find more on myAJC.com, including these stories:
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