Unemployment Mostly Remains Steady in April

People waiting in line at a career fair

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The unemployment rate has remained between 3.4% and 3.7% for more than a year, despite fears that the labor market may succumb to interest rate pressures.

April's unemployment rate was down just slightly from the month prior at 3.4%, according to data released Friday. The number of unemployed people fell to 5.7 million. These numbers are slightly lower than economists, who had predicted a small rise in the rate, expected.

Notably, Black workers were unemployed at the lowest level on record since the government began tracking the data in 1972.

Job growth did show some signs of weakness, with the last three months averaging 222,000, but that's the lowest reading since January 2021.

The report's wage growth numbers have economists divided on whether the Federal Reserve's 10th rate hike will be its last. Hourly earnings were up 0.5% on the month to $33.36 and increased 4.4% in the last year.

"Most nettlesome is that unemployment ticked lower to 3.4%," Moody's chief economist Mark Zandi tweeted Friday. "Weird to say, but we need a bit higher unemployment to further rein in wage growth, which was on the hot side last month. This is key to getting inflation down enough to convince the Fed to stop raising rates."

Economists and central bankers look at wages to determine if a wage-growth spiral is helping to fuel inflation. There has been some disagreement on whether that is happening in this inflationary cycle.

Heidi Shierholz, former chief economist at the Department of Labor and current head of the think tank Economic Policy Institute, said the labor market isn't too hot.

"Wage growth is generally trending down," Shierholz tweeted Friday. "We can absolutely sustain the kind of labor market tightness we are seeing today, if the Fed doesn’t stand in the way (or hasn’t already)."

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  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "THE EMPLOYMENT SITUATION — APRIL 2023."

  2. Moody's Analytics. "Employment Situation."

  3. Federal Reserve Economic Data. "Unemployment Rate - Black or African American."

  4. Twitter. "Mark Zandi Tweet May 5."

  5. Twitter. "Heidi Shierholz Tweet May 5."

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