Economy Watch: April Job Increases Broad-Based, 2012 Report Exonerated

Friday’s employment numbers came in better than expected, posting the largest employment rise in about two years. And the Office of the Inspector General termed accusations of falsified data on the 2012 report baseless.

Friday’s employment numbers came in better than expected, posting the largest employment rise in about two years. It is not yet clear whether that marks a one-off surge or the start of a longer-term pattern of healthy job creation – something that’s been a long time in coming. In any case, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a net of 288,000 new jobs nationwide.

Most kinds of businesses added employees in April. Professional and business services, for instance, posted a net increase of 75,000 jobs in April, compared to an average of 55,000 each month over the past 12 months. Retailers added 35,000 jobs in April, with every category growing except electronics and appliance stores. Employment in food service and drinking places was up 33,000 for the month.

Employment in construction grew by 32,000 in April, with job growth in heavy and civil engineering construction up 11,000 and residential building gaining 7,000. Construction has added 189,000 jobs over the past year, with almost three-fourths of the gain just in the past six months.

The headline unemployment rate dropped considerably in April, from 6.7 to 6.3 percent, but some of the shift was because the total labor force dropped by 806,000 in April, following an increase of 503,000 in March. Also, the labor force participation rate fell by 0.4 percentage points to 62.8 percent in April. The participation rate has shown no clear trend in recent months and is currently the same as it was last October.

The number of people out of work at least six months – the long-term unemployed – dropped by 287,000 to 3.5 million. The long-term unemployed still represent more than a third (35.5 percent) of all those unemployed, according to the BLS; when it comes to re-employment, they are a tougher nut to crack, since employers often are reluctant to hire them.

Inspector General Finds No Evidence of Jobs Numbers Tampering

On the subject of the employment report, loose accusations about the integrity of the reports just before the 2012 election surfaced last year, prompting the Office of the Inspector General to investigate. The OIG reported on Friday that it found them to be baseless.

“OIG received information alleging that management in the U.S. Census Bureau’s Philadelphia Regional Office instructed staff to falsify survey responses on the AHS and the CPS (American Housing Survey and the Current Population Survey),” the OIG noted in a statement. “Following this complaint, additional allegations were presented in various media publications, which reported widespread data falsification in the Census Bureau’s Philadelphia Regional Office.

“OIG thoroughly investigated these allegations and found no evidence that management in the Philadelphia Regional Office instructed staff to falsify data at any time for any reason. Further, we found no evidence of systemic data falsification in the Philadelphia Regional Office. Addressing allegations raised in the media, we found no evidence that the national unemployment rate was manipulated by staff in the Philadelphia Regional Office in the months leading up to the 2012 presidential election.”

Wall Street wasn’t particularly enthused about the employment report on Friday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropping 45.98 points, or 0.28 percent. The S&P 500 lost 0.13 percent, and the Nasdaq was down 0.09 percent.