The overall unemployment rate fell to 4.4 percent in April, tying the lowest level reached since May of 2001 as the establishment survey reported the economy added 211,000 jobs. With roughly offsetting revisions to the prior two months’ job growth, this brings the average for the last three months to 174,000.
While the report on the whole is quite positive, one item is especially worth noting — the increase in the employment-to-population ratio (EPOP) among prime-age men. The employment rate for prime-age workers edged up to 78.6 percent. This is a new high for the recovery, although it is 1.7 percentage points below the pre-recession peak and 3.3 percentage points below the 2000 peak.
In April the EPOP for prime-age women edged down to 71.9 percent, 0.9 percentage points below its pre-recession peak and 3.0 percentage points below its 2000 peak. However the EPOP for prime-age men rose 0.2 percentage points to 85.4 percent. This is still 2.6 percentage points below its pre-recession peak and 4.1 percentage points below its 2000 peak, but the rise does suggest that there is still more room for EPOPs to increase among prime-age men. The fact that the EPOP for both prime-age men and women remain below pre-recession levels and far below 2000 levels strongly suggest that the issue is a lack of demand in the economy and not a decrease in the ability or desire of people to work.