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Friday, May 6, 2011

Unemployment Up Again 9 Percent as Higher Gas Prices Slows Economic Recovery

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U.S. Payrolls Increased 244,000 in April; Unemployment at 9%



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The U.S. economy added more jobs than forecast in April, easing concern that higher fuel prices are slowing the economic recovery.
Payrolls increased by 244,000 workers last month, the biggest gain since May 2010, after a revised 221,000 gain the prior month, the Labor Department said today in Washington. Economists projected an April rise of 185,000, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey. Employment excluding government jobs jumped the most in five years. The jobless rate rose to 9 percent, the first increase since November.
More jobs and rising wages may give households, whose spending accounts for 70 percent of the economy, the means to overcome the highest gasoline prices in almost three years. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and some of his colleagues have signaled they plan to forge ahead through June with record monetary stimulus to bolster the expansion.
“The labor market has finally moved into sustainable- growth mode,” Guy LeBas, chief fixed-income strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott LLC in Philadelphia, said before the report. “We can expect growth numbers to be positive.”
Payroll estimates in the Bloomberg survey of 86 economists ranged from gains of 118,000 to 325,000. March was revised up from a previously reported gain of 216,000, and February payrolls increased 235,000 after a prior estimate of 194,000.
The unemployment rate was projected to hold at 8.8 percent, according to the survey median.

Private Hiring Jumps

Private hiring, which excludes government agencies, rose by 268,000 in April, more than the 200,000 median forecast in the Bloomberg survey and the most since February 2006, after a 231,000 increase in March.
While companies stepped up hiring, earnings rose and hours increased. Average hourly earnings climbed to $22.95 in April, today’s report showed, while the average work week for all employees held at 34.3 hours.
The separate survey of households showed the size of the labor force was little changed in April and employment shrank by 190,000. That pushed the share of the population in the labor force down to 58.4 percent from 58.5 percent a month earlier.
Government payrolls decreased by 24,000 last month. Local government employment dropped by 14,000.
Factory payrolls increased by 29,000 last month, more than the survey forecast of a 20,000 gain, after a 22,000 rise in March.
Employment at service-providers rose 200,000 in April after a 184,000 gain the prior month. The health care industry added 37,300 workers in April. Construction payrolls rose 5,000 and retail trade employment increased 57,100.

Norfolk Southern

Some companies are adding workers. Norfolk Southern Corp. (NSC) is expanding payrolls as the fourth-biggest U.S. railroad benefits from an economic expansion that’s boosting shipping volumes. First-quarter profit excluding some items was $1 a share, topping the 90-cent average estimate from 27 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.
“We still have a need for additional employees for the business that we’ve got out there,” Mark Manion, chief operating officer of Norfolk Southern, said in an April 27 teleconference. “There is a need to hire for our current business as well as hiring for the growth that’s anticipated in the first -- this year and on into 2012.”
While payrolls have grown each month since October, Bernanke said on April 27 that central bankers would like to see more strength in the U.S. job market, noting that a recovery has been “quite slow.”

‘Improving Gradually’

“The labor market is improving gradually,” Bernanke said to reporters during the first-ever press conference following a Federal Open Market Committee meeting. “We would like to make sure that that is sustainable. The longer it goes on, the more confident we are.”
Economic growth slowed to a 1.8 percent annual rate in the first quarter after expanding at a 3.1 percent pace in the last three months of 2010, according to Commerce Department figures.
Regular fuel was $3.99 a gallon on May 4, the highest since July 2008, according to AAA, the nation’s biggest motoring organization. Food costs rose 0.8 percent in March, also the most since July 2008, consumer-price index data from the Labor Department showed last month.
The so-called underemployment rate -- which includes part- time workers who’d prefer a full-time position and people who want work but have given up looking -- rose to 15.9 percent from 15.7 percent, today’s report showed.

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