U.S. employers added 266,000 jobs in April, which was far fewer than the one million job gains expected by labor economists. The unemployment rate ticked up to 6.1% from 6% in March as 9.8 million people remain out of work due to the pandemic. The U.S. Labor Dept. also revised the March job gains lower to 777,000, down from the 916,000 is reported that month. The disappointing number of job gains last month belies the strength of the economic recovery, while companies complain that they can't find enough qualified workers for open positions.

Among the unemployed, the number of persons on temporary layoff was 2.1 million, which was essentially unchanged from March. It is down considerably from the recent high of 18.0 million in April 2020 but is still 1.4 million higher than in February 2020. The number of permanent job losses stood at 3.5 million, also little changed from March, but is 2.2 million higher than in February 2020.

The labor force participation rate, which measures the sum of all workers who are employed or actively seeking employment divided by the total non-institutionalized, civilian working-age population was little changed at 61.7 percent in April, and is 1.6 percent lower than in February 2020. The employment-population ratio was also little changed in April at 57.9 percent but is up by 0.5 percentage point since December 2020, but is still 3.2 percent below its February 2020 level, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Unemployment by race continues to paint an uneven picture of the U.S. economic recovery. Black and Hispanic workers have unemployment rates of 9.7 percent and 7.9 percent, respectively, while the rate for White and Asian workers' is less than the national average.

U.S. Unemployment by Race, April 2021
U.S. Unemployment by Race, April 2021.

Where are the Jobs?

The hiring in April was the most robust in the leisure and hospitality sector, where over 330,000 jobs were added. Of those, 187,000 were in food services and drinking places. More than 70,000 jobs were added in amusements, gambling and recreation. Employment in local government education increased by 31,000 in April but is 611,000 lower than in February 2020. The manufacturing and retail trade areas of the economy actually lost jobs last month, despite the surge in industrial production and consumer spending.