Economists breathed a sigh of relief when the Labor Department reported a better than expected April employment report on Friday, but the details show cracks still remain.
Many of the job gains proved to be in lower paying fields and the average number of hours worked dipped.
In fact, April's report revealed the average workweek for private sector employees declined 0.2 hour to 34.4 hours.
The data also suggests The Affordable Health Care Act, aka Obamacare, is already having an impact on hiring since job growth has slowed most significantly among businesses with 50-499 employees.
This could be the reason why...
Unemployment Down, But February Jobs Report Not All Rosy
Friday's jobs report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is a mixed bag.
The report had some positive news, as the unemployment rate fell to 7.7%, the lowest rate since December 2008.
While the preliminary numbers for February show that 236,000 new jobs were created, exceeding analyst estimates by a wide margin, the figure for January was revised down from 157,000 to 119,000. However, the December number was revised up from 196,000 to 219,000. So for the three months of December 2012-February 2013, the economy has added a total of 574,000 jobs, well above expectations.
But despite the increase in the number of jobs, the main reason for the decline in the unemployment rate is that fewer people are participating in the labor market.
The participation rate fell by 0.1 percentage points to 63.5% in February as 130,000 people dropped out of the labor force. The employment-population ratio remained flat at 58.6%.
January 2013 Jobs Report: 4 Reasons Unemployment Will Stay High
The U.S. Labor Department released the January 2013 jobs report Friday, showing the unemployment rate inched upward from 7.8% to 7.9%.
Employers added 157,000 jobs in January, short estimates of 168,000, which would have kept the unemployment rate stable.
The jobs report included some good news: Revisions to last year's data, customary in January, show the U.S. added 335,000 more jobs than initially reported in 2012, bringing the monthly average for jobs gained to 181,000 from the 153,000 initially reported.
Employment gains for November and December were revised higher by a total of 127,000.
Contributing most to January payroll increases were the retail, construction and healthcare sectors. The government continued to shed workers, a trend that began four years ago.
But the employment outlook remains bleak. Joblessness has proved persistent, with the unemployment rate stuck above an unhealthy 7% for more than four years.
"The good news is that January's employment gains, coupled with large revisions to the prior months, may translate into more consumer spending power. The bad news is that unemployment remains stubbornly high," said Kathy Bostjanic, director of macroeconomics analysis at the Conference Board.
Why the January 2013 U.S. Jobs Report May Surprise You
The U.S. employment picture is expected to show continued signs of improvement when the Labor Department releases January's U.S. jobs report Friday morning.
Projections are for nonfarm payrolls to have gained 168,000 employees during the first month of 2013.
While a decent number, the tally won't be enough to budge the nation's 7.8% unemployment rate.
Forecasts from 90 economists polled by Thomson Reuters range from a 75,000 gain on the low end to a 200,000 gain.
In December, the number was a surprisingly robust 155,000. Over the past two years, the average has been 153,000 per month.
"We started the year on a pretty solid footing. I think the report is going to be a little bit better than what most people think," Steve Blitz, chief economist at ITG Investment Research, told the International Business Times.
But a number of factors could skew data in the U.S. jobs report. Here's what you should watch for.
April's U.S. Jobs Report a Far Cry from Where We Need to Be