In April, US non-farm payrolls surprised on the upside of expectations, rising by 244 000, while the consensus was looking for an increase by 185 000. The previous to figures were upwardly revised: March from 216 000 to 221 000 and February from 194 000 to 235 000. Overall, the payrolls were 105 000 above expectations. Looking at the details, employment in the public sector fell by 24 000, as weakness was broad-based, while private sector employment rose by 268 000 in April, up from 231 000 in the month before. The breakdown of the private sector shows a slight acceleration in employment growth in the good-producing sector (44 000 from 37 000).
The construction sector added 5 000 jobs (from 2 000) and employment rose by 29 000 in the manufacturing sector (from 22 000). The biggest improvement was however based in the services sector (224 000 from 194 000) with a sharp rebound in retail trade (57 000 from -3 000), probably due to the Easter Holidays. Employment rose also in information (2 000 from -2 000), financial (4 000 from 5 000) and business (51 000 from 86 000) services, in education & heath (49 000 from 33 000) and leisure & hospitality (46 000 from 51 000). Nevertheless, somewhat worrying is the decline in temporary help payrolls (-2 000 from 34 000), as it is often a good forecaster for the overall payrolls. The household survey, on the contrary, disappointed as the unemployment rate rose from 8.8% to 9%, after trending sharply down in the previous months. The number of people unemployed rose for the first time in five months, from 13.542 million to 13.747 million, while the civilian labour force rose only marginally by 15 000 to 153.421 million. Employment fell by 190 000 in April to 139.674 million. Average weekly hours worked stayed unchanged at 34.3, in line with expectations, while average hourly earnings rose more than expected in April (by 1.9% Y/Y). In April, the US labour market remained well on track, despite increasing signs of a slowdown in economic momentum. Private employment rose at the sharpest pace in more than five years, but the weakness in temporary help payrolls, if repeated in May, would suggest we may expect a slowdown job growth in the coming months as the recovery is losing some of its momentum.