5 Points on the April Jobs Numbers

By at 5 May, 2017, 12:10 pm


by Raymond J. Keating-

The Bureau of Labor Statistics served up April jobs numbers on May 5, 2017, and the numbers were a mix of some positive news as well as some persistent concerns. Let’s consider 5 key points:

1)Nonfarm payrolls increased by 211,000 in April. That was up from a poor showing of +79,000 in March. However, it remains short of gains of 250,000 to 300,000, or more, which would signify strong economic growth.

2) As for the household survey data (which better captures small business and startup hiring), employment rose by 156,000, with the labor force effectively flat at a mere increase of 12,000. That’s hardly anything to write home about, but both February and March did show strong gains, and there is considerable volatility in this survey.

3) The labor force participation, which has hovered at or near three-to-four-decade lows for about seven-and-a-half years, ticked down slightly from 63 percent in April to 62.9 percent in May.

4) The employment-population ratio, which also has hovered around 30-to-40-year lows for more than eight years, climbed for the fourth month in a row, hitting 60.2 percent in April. The ratio has been at our above 60 percent for three straight months. That’s not saying much over a longer stretch of history, but that is the first three-month-60-plus string since late 2008 into early 2009.

5) The number of unincorporated self-employed – an important, partial measure of entrepreneurship – declined for the second month in a row, from 9.67 million in February (seasonally adjusted data) to 9.56 million in March and 9.37 million in April. The number of unincorporated self-employed had dropped markedly from late 2006 (10.86 million) to mid-2014 (9.09 million). Subsequently, there was some growth over the following year (hitting 9.95 million in May 2015), then followed by months of effective stagnation, with decline resuming in 2017. As noted in an SBE Council report out earlier this week – titled Small Business Week 2017: The State of Entrepreneurship and Small Business – we have serious concerns about declining levels of entrepreneurship, which is troubling for the current and future economy.

In the end, this mixed jobs report lines up with much of what we’ve seen in recent years, and speaks to the need for federal policymakers to make substantial, permanent tax and regulatory relief a reality.


Raymond J. Keating is chief economist for the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council.

Keating’s latest book published by SBE Council is titled Unleashing Small Business Through IP: The Role of Intellectual Property in Driving Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Investment and it is available free on SBE Council’s website here.


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