Economy Watch: Job Creation Spikes in April; Manufacturing, Construction Gain

The economy added 288,000 jobs in April, and manufacturing expanded for the 11th consecutive month.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday that the U.S. economy created 288,000 jobs in April, a strong showing for the month. Employment gains were widespread, including hiring in professional and business services, retail trade, food services and construction, though there was relatively little growth in information services or the public sector. Job growth has averaged 190,000 per month over the past 12 months.

The unemployment rate, which is based on a separate survey, dropped to 6.3 percent in April, compared with 6.7 percent in March. The BLS measurement of unemployment known as U-6, which includes the unemployed who are actively looking for work, but also discouraged workers and part-time workers looking for full-time work but who can’t find it, came in at 12.3 percent in April, compared with 12.7 percent in March. The U-6 a year ago was 13.9 percent.

The U.S. Department of Labor reported separately on Thursday that initial unemployment claims were 344,000 for the week ending April 26, an increase of 14,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The less jumpy four-week moving average was 320,000, an increase of 3,000 claims from the previous week’s revised figures.

Construction Spending Rises in March

The Census Bureau reported on Thursday that construction spending during March was at an annualized rate of $942.5 billion, or 0.2 percent above the revised February rate. The March 2014 figure is 8.4 percent above the March 2013’annualized rate of $869.2 billion.

Private construction spending was up; public spending was down. Spending on private construction projects in March came in at annualized rate of $679.6 billion, or 0.5 percent above the February rate. As for public construction spending, it was at an annualized rate of $262.9 billion, or 0.6 percent below February.

Among property types, new single-family home construction gained 0.2 percent for the month, while multi-family was up 4.4 percent. Year over year, the two categories increased 13.2 percent and 32.5 percent, respectively. Similarly, spending on office construction jumped 13.5 percent year over year, and other commercial projects (industrial, retail) also gained 13.5 percent.

Manufacturing Shows Muscle

Manufacturing activity is also on the rise, the Institute for Supply Management reported on Thursday. The organization’s Purchasing Managers Index came in at 54.9 percent for April, an increase of 1.2 percent from March, reflecting expansion in manufacturing for the 11th consecutive month.

The organization’s New Orders Index registered 55.1 percent, unchanged from March, while its Production Index was 55.7 percent, slightly below the previous reading of 55.9 percent. Still, manufacturing employment grew for the 10th consecutive month, with the Employment Index coming in at 54.7 percent, an increase of 3.6 percent.

Wall Street had a mixed day on Thursday ahead of the jobs numbers, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average losing 21.97 points, or 0.13 percent. The S&P 500 was off a mere 0.01 percent but the Nasdaq gained 0.31 percent.