The United States economy added 266,000 jobs in April, according to a monthly jobs report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, showing that hiring has slowed from March's breakneck hiring pace as the country continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The figure fell far short of the expectations of economists who predicted the country would add as many as 1 million jobs. The unemployment rate is 6.1%, up a slight tick from the previous 6% figure.
On a more promising note, businesses have added jobs for four straight months, a promising sign for economic recovery.
The month's strongest job growth was in the hospitality and leisure field, which saw an increase of 331,000 jobs as COVID restrictions have lifted across the country. But a number of areas lost jobs, including retail (-15,000), food and beverage stores (-49,000), nursing care facilities (-19,000) and manufacturing (-18,000).
Most economists expect job growth to strengthen as more vaccinations are administered and trillions in government aid spreads through the economy. Even if another uptick in COVID-19 cases were to occur, analysts don’t expect most states and cities to reimpose tough business restrictions. Oxford Economics, a consulting firm, predicts that a total of 8 million jobs will be added this year, reducing the unemployment rate to a low 4.3% by year’s end.
Still, the economic rebound has been so fast that many businesses, particularly in the hard-hit hospitality sector — which includes restaurants, bars and hotels — have been caught flat-footed and unable to fill all their job openings. Some unemployed people have also been reluctant to look for work because they fear catching the virus.
Others have entered new occupations rather than return to their old jobs. And many women, especially working mothers, have had to leave the workforce to care for children.
Most of the hiring so far represents a bounce-back after tens of millions of positions were lost when the pandemic flattened the economy 14 months ago. The economy remains more than 8 million jobs short of its pre-pandemic level.
The Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion rescue package, approved in early March, has helped maintain Americans’ incomes and purchasing power, much more so than in previous recessions. The economy expanded at a vigorous 6.4% annual rate in the first three months of the year. That pace could accelerate to as high as 13% in the April-June quarter, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
The recovery remains sharply uneven: Most college-educated and white collar employees have been able to work from home over the past year. Many have not only built up savings but have also expanded their wealth as a result of rising home values and a record-setting stock market.
By contrast, job cuts have fallen heavily on low-wage workers, racial minorities and people without college educations. In addition, many women, especially working mothers, have had to leave the workforce to care for children.
President Joe Biden will deliver remarks on the report later Friday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.