The U.S. economy steadily created jobs in April while the jobless rate fell to the lowest level since late 2000, suggesting available workers are becoming scarcer in a tightening labor market.
Employers added 164,000 jobs in April, a pickup from March and more than enough to keep up with population growth, the Labor Department said Friday. The jobless rate, calculated from a separate survey of households, fell to 3.9% from 4.1% a month earlier, hitting the lowest rate since December 2000, toward the end of the tech boom.
But in an ongoing mystery, workers’ wages continued to grow sluggishly despite the historically low unemployment rate. Wages grew 4 cents over the month and 2.6% over the past year, strong enough to keep paychecks slightly ahead of cost-of-living increases.
A separate measure of unemployment shows the labor market may not be as strong as the main jobless rate implies. This measure–which takes into account part-time workers who would prefer full time jobs, and workers too discouraged to look for work–fell to 7.8% in April from 8% in March. In December 2000, the broader measure was 6.9%.