Unemployment is below 4% for the first time since 2000

The job market hasn't been this good in a very long time.The unemployment rate dropped below 4% in April for t...

Posted: May 4, 2018 11:53 PM
Updated: May 4, 2018 11:53 PM

The job market hasn't been this good in a very long time.

The unemployment rate dropped below 4% in April for the first time since 2000. The Labor Department reported Friday that it fell to 3.9% - inching closer to territory not seen in half a century.

Employers added 164,000 jobs, slightly below what economists were expecting but better than a comparatively sluggish March. The economy has added jobs every month for seven and a half years, the longest streak on record.

"Getting down to 3.9 is quite a marker," said Robert Frick, chief economist with Navy Federal Credit Union.

The report indicates another month of solid job gains for an economy that has been expanding for almost nine years. Only the 1990s expansion was longer.

Business would be adding even more jobs if they could find the workers they want. There are more than 6 million unfilled job openings in the United States, near a record. The number of people quitting jobs is also historically high, as workers leave for better jobs.

The unemployment rate fell in April because the labor force shrank: 236,000 Americans who were either working or looking for work dropped out of the job market.

"We would have liked to see more people getting jobs rather than people leaving," said Satyam Panday, senior economist at S&P Global Ratings.

Frick believes unemployment will keep falling as businesses offer more attractive wages and benefits to entice Americans who have stopped looking for work.

"There's still hundreds of thousands of more people who will enter the workforce," he said. "I think we can get down to 3.5%."

Unemployment fell as low as 3.8% in April 2000, in the waning days of the technology boom. The last time it was lower than that was 1969.

Average hourly wages ticked up 4 cents in April. They grew 2.6% from a year earlier, slightly below economists' expectations.

Related: The US economy just hit a milestone

"Wages haven't been able to break out of the 2.5% to 2.8% range," Panday said.

But Panday expects wages to pick up as the labor market tightens further, putting pressure on businesses to pay more to keep their workers and entice new ones.

Americans need rising wages to help offset higher prices and drive consumer spending, the backbone of the economy.

Inflation is closing in on the Federal Reserve's 2% target, gasoline is heading toward $3 a gallon, and companies have been reporting cost pressures, which could force them to raise prices.

But it could force the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates more quickly than planned, a concern on Wall Street in recent months.

The report boosted the stock market: The Dow jumped almost 300 points. The yield on the 10-year US Treasury note, which has been climbing as expectations of further rate hikes increase, fell slightly to 2.92% after the jobs report came out.

Hiring gains in April were broad. Professional and business services added 54,000 jobs, health care added 24,000, and manufacturing posted an increase of 24,000 jobs.

Mining, a category that includes not just coal and metals but jobs in oil and gas fields, added 8,000 positions, partly because of a rise in oil prices. Employment in mining has risen by 86,000 since October 2016.

Counting Labor Department revisions for February and March, the economy has added an average of 208,000 jobs a month over the past three months.

"It's a robust pace given where we are in the cycle," Panday said.

President Trump celebrated the report. "3.9% Unemployment. 4% is Broken!" he said on Twitter.

The economy has added 2.7 million jobs during Trump's first 15 full months in the White House, extending labor market gains under the Obama administration. Employers added 3.1 million jobs during the last 15 months of President Barack Obama's tenure.

- CNNMoney's Chris Isidore contributed to this story.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 16769

Reported Deaths: 803
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds110426
Madison77829
Lauderdale76569
Neshoba73945
Jones70933
Scott66312
Forrest60039
DeSoto59310
Rankin4639
Leake45512
Holmes44431
Copiah3344
Jackson31415
Attala31218
Yazoo2985
Newton2924
Oktibbeha28314
Leflore28238
Lincoln28131
Wayne2803
Monroe26925
Harrison2687
Lamar2525
Lowndes2529
Pearl River21231
Pike20411
Adams20416
Warren19910
Washington1998
Lee1978
Noxubee1956
Covington1832
Bolivar16911
Jasper1684
Clarke15619
Smith15611
Lafayette1564
Kemper15611
Chickasaw14314
Coahoma1324
Clay1254
Winston1241
Carroll11911
Marion1169
Claiborne1165
Yalobusha1116
Grenada1104
Lawrence1071
Simpson1050
Sunflower963
Tate931
Hancock9012
Marshall893
Union897
Itawamba897
Webster885
Panola873
Wilkinson859
Montgomery841
Jefferson Davis823
Tippah7611
Calhoun684
Walthall670
Amite651
Humphreys647
Tunica583
Prentiss533
Choctaw522
Perry513
Pontotoc493
Jefferson421
Tishomingo360
Stone320
Quitman320
Tallahatchie311
Greene301
George302
Franklin292
Alcorn191
Benton140
Sharkey70
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 19387

Reported Deaths: 676
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Mobile2341123
Jefferson1927105
Montgomery190544
Tuscaloosa85316
Marshall7149
Franklin5939
Lee56334
Shelby53619
Tallapoosa43566
Butler43121
Walker3973
Elmore38110
Chambers36326
Madison3594
Unassigned3144
Morgan3141
Baldwin2969
Dallas2963
Lowndes26912
Etowah26512
DeKalb2603
Autauga2485
Coffee2401
Sumter2369
Houston2275
Pike2231
Bullock2197
Colbert1972
Hale19210
Russell1870
Barbour1831
Marengo1796
Lauderdale1752
Calhoun1693
Cullman1631
Wilcox1587
Choctaw15310
Clarke1492
St. Clair1372
Randolph1288
Dale1250
Marion12511
Talladega1215
Pickens1215
Limestone1100
Chilton1081
Greene955
Macon944
Winston920
Jackson863
Henry842
Covington831
Crenshaw803
Escambia793
Bibb761
Washington746
Blount641
Lawrence510
Monroe492
Geneva450
Perry430
Conecuh421
Coosa401
Cherokee383
Clay282
Lamar280
Fayette160
Cleburne151
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