Payrolls climbed in 30 U.S. states in April, while the unemployment rate dropped in 40, showing the labor market strengthened across the country.
Texas led the gains in payrolls, adding 33,100 jobs last month, followed by New York and Florida, according to figures released today in Washington by the Labor Department. California, New York and South Carolina were among states with the biggest decreases in joblessness.
Widespread employment gains indicate that stronger demand has induced companies to fire fewer workers and, at times, boost staff levels. Those decisions will be challenged in May and the following month as slower manufacturing activity, diminished business with the government and a slowdown in consumer spending offer less support to the U.S. expansion.
“The hiring backdrop has been much more steady than economic growth,” Julia Coronado, chief economist for North America at BNP Paribas in New York, said before the report. “I expect it to improve and look better in the second half” of the year.
Other reports today showed consumer sentiment jumped to an almost six-year high and the index of leading indicators climbed more than projected.
The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary index of consumer sentiment rose to 83.7 in May, the highest since July 2007, from 76.4 the prior month. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey was for a gain to 77.9. Forecasts ranged from 74 to 82.5. The index averaged 64.2 during the recession that ended in June 2009 and 89 in the five years prior.
The Conference Board’s gauge of the economic outlook for the next three to six months climbed 0.6 percent in April after falling a revised 0.2 percent in March, the New York-based group said. The median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a 0.2 percent increase. The rebound suggests the world’s largest economy will accelerate later this year.
Stocks rose after the reports, putting the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index on track for its fourth straight week of gains. The S&P 500 advanced 0.4 percent to 1,656.83 at 11:07 a.m. in New York.
In April, payrolls expanded nationally by 165,000 workers after growing by a larger-than-first-estimated 138,000 workers in the prior month, the Labor Department said May 3. The jobless rate fell to a four-year low of 7.5 percent.
Employment rose by 25,300 in New York last month, the second-biggest gain of any state in today’s report. Florida followed with a 17,000 increase.
Wisconsin and Minnesota showed the biggest decreases in payrolls last month, according to the report.
The jobless rate dropped by 0.4 percentage point in California, New York and South Carolina in April.
Unemployment fell to 9.6 percent in Nevada from 9.7 percent in March. Nonetheless it remained the state with the highest rate in the country. Illinois was second, with a rate of 9.3 percent, followed by Mississippi at 9.1 percent.
North Dakota remained the state with the lowest jobless rate in the nation at 3.3 percent.
State and local employment data are derived independently from the national statistics, which are typically released on the first Friday of every month. The state figures are subject to larger sampling errors because they come from surveys of smaller size, in turn making the national figures more reliable, according to the government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Additional progress in the labor market will make those at the Federal Reserve more confident the U.S. economy doesn’t need as much support as they’re currently providing. Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco President John Williams said yesterday that as early as this summer the central bank may begin slowing the pace of its $85 billion in monthly bond purchases.
“It’s clear that the labor market has improved since September” when the Fed began its third round of asset buying, Williams said during a speech in Portland, Oregon. The Federal Open Market Committee said May 1 that it’s prepared to increase or decrease the size of its monthly bond-buying as officials gauge the health of the economy.
Still, economists anticipate the expansion will cool to a 1.6 percent pace this quarter after growing at a 2.5 percent rate in the first three months of 2013, according to the median forecast in a Bloomberg survey from May 3 to May 8. The estimate reflects the lagged effect from a two percentage-point increase in the payroll tax at the start of 2013 and $85 billion in automatic budget cuts that began on March 1.
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