The economy created 223,000 jobs in April, and the jobless rate declined to 5.4% – the lowest since mid-2008. The US has added an average 194,000 jobs per month for the first four months of 2015…quite a bit slower than the average 324,000 pace of the fourth quarter.
On a less upbeat note, the private sector created fewer jobs in April, according to ADP. For the month, 169,000 jobs were created, marking the fifth straight month of decline.
Layoff announcements hit a three-year high in April, as employers said they would let go 61,582 workers – the most since May 2012, according the Challenger job cuts report. The slump in oil prices accounted for much of the increase: around 20,000 job cuts were in the energy sector. So far this year, employers have cut 201,796 positions.
On another negative note, US productivity dropped 1.9% in the first quarter after falling 2.1% in the fourth quarter of last year – marking the first back-to-back decline since 2006. The slip in productivity was the result of companies hiring more workers even as production of goods and services declined.
The US trade deficit soared 43% to $51.5 billion in March, the highest since 2008, as imports jumped 7.7% to $239.2 billion while exports edged up .9% to $187.8 billion. The rise in imports was the result of the end of a labor dispute that left piles of imported goods sitting at docks.
The mortgage delinquency rate for loans on one-to-four unit residential properties fell to 5.54% at the end of the first quarter, marking the lowest level since the second quarter of 2007, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. The percentage of mortgages in the foreclosure process at the end of the first quarter was 2.22%, the lowest since the fourth quarter of 2007. According to the MBA, delinquency and foreclosure rates are dropping as “the job market continues to grow, and this is the most important fundamental improving mortgage performance. Additionally, home prices continued to rise, as did the pace of sales, thus increasing equity levels and enabling struggling borrowers to sell if needed”.