Job gains unexpectedly slowed in April as states lifted COVID-19 restrictions on businesses and more people are vaccinated. Total payroll employment rose by only 266,000 and the unemployment rate increased to 6.1% in April. This was a surprisingly disappointing report on the macro level.
Residential construction employment rose by 3,100 in April, after an increase of 28,700 in March. Non-residential construction lost 2,900 positions in April, reflecting declines in nonresidential specialty trade contractors (-11,800). Currently, residential construction employment exceeds its level in February 2020, while only 62% of non-residential construction jobs lost in March and April have been recovered. Aggregate construction industry (both residential and non-residential) employment totaled 7.5 million in April.
In April, total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 266,000, reported in the Employment Situation Summary. It marks the fourth consecutive gain after a decline of 306,000 jobs in December. Employments in February and March together were revised down by 78,000. The February increase was revised up by 68,000, while the March increase was revised down by 146,000 from 916,000 to 770,000.
The economy lost 22.4 million jobs in March and April of 2020 due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. By April 2021, 14.1 million jobs have been recovered, however, total nonfarm employment in April is still 8.2 million lower than its February 2020 level, a year ago.
Meanwhile, the unemployment rate rose to 6.1% in April, from 6.0% in March. It was 8.7 percentage points lower than its recent high of 14.8% in April and 2.6 percentage points higher than the rate in February 2020. The labor force participation rate, the proportion of the population either looking for a job or already with a job, rose by 0.2 percentage points to 61.7% in April. The April increase in the labor force participation rate reflected the decrease in the number of persons not in the labor force and the increase in the number of persons in the labor force, with increases in the numbers of persons employed (+328,000) and unemployed (+102,000).
In April, employment in leisure and hospitality increased by 331,000, the most gain among all the major industries. Government, other services, financial activities, and health care and social assistance had job gains as well, while employments in professional and business services, transportation and warehousing, durable goods and educational services declined.
Employment in the overall construction sector was unchanged in April, following a revised increase of 97,000 jobs in March. Residential construction added 3,100 jobs in April, after an increase of 28,700 in March.
Residential construction employment now stands at 3.0 million in April, broken down as 869,000 builders and 2.2 million residential specialty trade contractors. The 6-month moving average of job gains for residential construction was 13,400 a month. Over the last 12 months, home builders and remodelers added 515,300 jobs on a net basis. Since the low point following the Great Recession, residential construction has gained 1,045,200 positions.
In April, the unemployment rate for construction workers declined to 6.5% on a seasonally adjusted basis. After reaching 14.1% in April due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the unemployment rate for construction workers has been trending lower for the past twelve months.