(Headline USA) America’s employers added just 266,000 jobs last month, sharply lower than in March and a sign that some businesses are struggling to find enough workers.
President Joe Biden’s relief package added $300 to weekly unemployment benefits.
Bank of America economist Michelle Meyer calculated that for people who earned under $32,000 a year at their previous job, current unemployment aid pays more than their former job did — a reality that could keep up to 1 million people out of the workforce.
This was far below expectations. Analysts surveyed by Econoday had predicted Friday’s report would show between 755,000 and 1.25 million workers added to payrolls in April. The median forecast was for 938,000 and an unemployment rate of 5.8 percent.
“Government paying people more to stay home than to work has crushed the ability of businesses to get workers back, and this jobs report is evidence of that,” said Adam Brandon, president of free-market grassroots group FreedomWorks. “Such disappointing news is exactly what we have warned Democratic policies would do to our recovery for nearly a year now. There is no excuse for these abysmal jobs numbers as our economy reopens and businesses are actively seeking workers. President Biden should be ashamed.”
In addition, higher stock prices and home values might have led up to 1.2 million older Americans to retire earlier than they otherwise would have.
The economic rebound from the pandemic recession has been so fast that many businesses, particularly in the hard-hit hospitality sector — which includes restaurants, bars and hotels — have been caught flat-footed and unable to fill all their job openings. Some unemployed people have also been reluctant to look for work because they fear catching the virus.
Others have entered new occupations rather than return to their old jobs. And many women, especially working mothers, have had to leave the workforce to care for children.
In addition, construction companies and manufacturers, especially automakers, have been left short of parts as a result of clogged supply chains and have had to slow production for now. Both sectors pulled back on hiring in April.
With viral cases declining and states and localities easing restrictions, businesses have added jobs for four straight months, the Labor Department said Friday. But as more people have begun looking for work, more people are being counted as unemployed: In April, the unemployment rate ticked up from 6% to 6.1% in March.
Among industries, the sharpest loss last month was in temporary work, which shed 111,000 jobs. Construction companies added no jobs in April after having added 97,000 in March. Manufacturing lost 18,000 positions after hiring 54,000 the previous month. And transportation and warehousing cut 74,000 jobs after months of solid gains.
By contrast, restaurants, hotels, and entertainment venues — businesses that have complained the loudest about a shortage of workers — added 331,000 jobs in April, even more than their 206,000 increase in March.
In its report Friday, the government also sharply lowered its estimate of March’s job gain to 770,000 from its earlier estimate of 916,000.
But job postings are now significantly above pre-pandemic levels, evidence that companies are increasingly confident that business is picking up and that they want to hire. Yet there are still about 4 million people who dropped out of the workforce during the pandemic.
As more consumers venture out of their homes to shop, travel and attend entertainment venues, many businesses say they need workers. On Tuesday, at the Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg, Virginia, customers for the indoor water park and hotel were plentiful. Yet job-seekers for the company’s hiring open house were relatively scarce.
Nick Locastro, general manager for the lodge, said customer demand is running higher than the company can accommodate because it’s still limited to roughly 50% of its capacity by state rules. He said he expects business to return to pre-pandemic levels by summer if capacity restraints are lifted.
Locastro would like to hire about 100 workers — lifeguards, kitchen workers, hotel cleaners and others — to meet that demand. For now, the company has about 400 on staff, most of whom it recalled after it was allowed to reopen in September. The company had about two dozen interviews scheduled for Tuesday, along with some walk-ins.
“We’d love to have more, if you know of any,” Locastro said. “It’s becoming an increasingly more competitive market.”
Adapted from reporting by Associated Press.