Employers added a disappointing 266,000 jobs in April even as the number of new COVID-19 cases stayed low, more states lifted constraints and vaccinations accelerated.
The gains fell well short of projections in a recovery that’s expected to gather force through the summer, with a million or more jobs added each month.
The unemployment rate rose from 6% to 6.1% as a large increase in the labor force — the number of Americans working or looking for jobs — more than offset solid employment gains, the Labor Department said Friday.
Economists had estimated that 995,000 jobs were added last month, according to a Bloomberg survey. Instead, gains for February and March were revised down by a total 78,000, with March’s blockbuster 916,000 additions downgraded to 770,000.
Economists proposed a variety of possible reasons for the poor showing, including worker shortages, a shift away from industries that thrived while Americans stayed home during the pandemic, supply-chain snarls and problems with Labor’s seasonal adjustment of the raw numbers.
Leisure and hospitality, which includes restaurants and bars — the industry hit hardest by payroll losses — continued to recover, adding 331,000 jobs. But other sectors had weak showings.