May 06, 2022

Good morning. Here are Axios chief economic correspondent Neil Irwin and chief financial correspondent Felix Salmon with what you need to know about today's jobs numbers.

  • Smart Brevity™ count: 326 words ... a 1-minute read.

1 big thing: Much to like in the jobs report

Data: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Axios Visuals

The jobs machine is still revving rapidly.

  • Employers added 428,000 positions in April, and the unemployment rate remains just a smidgeon above its five-decade low, according to new jobs data.
  • Between the lines: Tiny cracks are showing, suggesting the jobs boom could fade as this year progresses.

Why it matters: One huge question for the economy in 2022 is how the labor market will hold up as the Federal Reserve shifts toward tighter money, causing higher interest rates and higher recession risk.

  • So far so good, even as the breakneck job market of the winter could be giving way to something more measured.

By the numbers: Average hourly earnings rose 0.3% in April and are up 5.5% over the past year. The annual rate edged down from its March level, and over the last three months, wages rose 0.9%. That's the lowest three-month reading in a year.

  • The good bad news: Employers are not having to pay up quite as aggressively to find workers, which should lower inflation pressures.
  • So far, inflation isn't being caused by higher wages. The Fed wants to keep it that way.

What they're saying: "The underlying inflation trend may be lower than I thought and coming down," tweeted Harvard economist Jason Furman.

The details: While the unemployment rate was stable at 3.6%, the details underneath that number worsened a bit.

  • The proportion of working-age people who have a job or want one fell by 0.2 percentage points to 62.2%, and the number of people not in the labor force rose by 478,000.
  • Construction employment rose by a mere 2,000 jobs in April, which again could be a statistical fluke — or could be the canary in the coal mine suggesting that higher interest rates are starting to bite in building industries.

The bottom line: The job market remains in excellent shape for now; indeed, Fed chair Jerome Powell has called it "tight to an unhealthy level." If it softens in the months ahead, he won't be upset.