As vaccination efforts continue and statistics improve for the COVID-19 pandemic, a recent jobs report from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that more employees hung up Zoom and returned to the workplace in April. According to April figures, the number of teleworkers declined to 18.3%, marking a nearly 3% decrease from the prior month. Meanwhile, it does not appear they were joined by a rash of new coworkers, as the labor force participation rate remained more or less static at 61.7% and 1.6 percentage points lower than the February 2020 rate. While total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 266,000 in April, the month proved slow compared to the 770,000 jobs that were added in March and 536,000 in February. The employment-to-population ratio posted little changed at 57.9%, but has risen by half a percentage point since December 2020, remaining 3.2 percentage points below February 2020 levels.

The search for labor has made its mark on wages, too, it seems, as in April average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased by 21 cents to $30.17, following a decline of 4 cents in the prior month. Average hourly earnings for private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees rose by 20 cents to $25.45. “The data for April suggest that the rising demand for labor associated with the recovery from the pandemic may have put upward pressure on wages,” BLS officials say. Statistics also show that people are working more, as the average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased by 0.1 hour to 35.0 hours in April. In manufacturing, total workweek hours and overtime remained unchanged at 40.5 hours and 3.2 hours, respectively.

Overall, nonfarm employment was down in April by 8.2 million, or 5.4%, from pre-pandemic levels in February 2020. Both the unemployment rate, at 6.1%, and the number of unemployed persons, at 9.8 million, posted little change. Year over year, those measures are down considerably, after peaking in April 2020, but remain higher than pre-pandemic levels, when they were at 3.5% and 5.7 million, respectively (in February 2020).

In manufacturing, employment dropped by 18,000, following gains of 54,000 in March and 35,000 in February. Job losses in the wood products sector totaled 7,000. Overall, employment in manufacturing is 515,000 lower than in February 2020.

Employment in construction has risen by 917,000 over the year, but remained unchanged for the month of April at 196,000 below February 2020 levels.

In the end, the best measure for door and window companies looking to hire could be the number of individuals currently out of work who say they want jobs. In April, the number of persons not in the labor force who currently want a job showed little change at 6.6 million—1.6 million higher than February 2020. Another 9.4 million reported that they had been unable to work because their employer closed or lost business due to the pandemic.
The number who say they’ve been held out of the workplace by the pandemic is also falling, decreasing from 3.7 million in March to 2.8 million in April.

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