That’s how many U.S. jobs never materialized in April, despite economists predicting a bold new course for the labor market recovery.
The economy added just 266,000 jobs last month, a sharp decline from March’s increase and well below the 977,500 expected by economists, according to the median estimate cited by Moody’s Analytics.
Forecasters had been optimistic jobs would begin to come back in larger chunks after stimulus-fueled consumer spending and the rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations helped economic growth surge 6.4% in the first quarter. But that didn’t happen in April, leaving many scratching their heads. The job market, which shed 22.4 million in the first months of the pandemic, has been slow to recover after an initial burst of rehiring last summer. There are still 8.2 million fewer jobs than in February 2020, before the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Quite frankly it is hard to believe the paucity of job creation in April,” Conrad DeQuadros, a senior economic advisor at Brean Capital, wrote in a commentary.
Searching for answers, economists pointed to a shortage of supplies constraining hiring even as they acknowledged that some industries are finding it hard to find enough workers. Some of the industries that suffered job losses in April, like auto manufacturing (down 27,000 jobs), have been hit hard by a global shortage of semiconductors that’s causing factory shutdowns. Soaring lumber prices could be behind the lack of hiring in the construction industry, which saw no increase in jobs at all last month despite continued demand for houses.