The nine-year expansion in the U.S. economy just notched another major achievement. The official unemployment rate in the United States, as measured and reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, was 3.9 percent in the month of April. This followed six consecutive months in which the unemployment rate was 4.1 percent.
The trend in this data exhibits a very strong cyclical pattern. The April reading marked only the fifth time in the history of this data series (dating back to 1948) that the low range in the cycle has dipped below 4 percent, and it is the first time since 2000 that it has happened.
Looking closer at the data, total nonfarm payrolls expanded by 164,000 jobs in April. This was below the 191,000 average monthly gain of the past 12 months, but it was well above the 90,000 average monthly influx of new job seekers.
Employment in manufacturing increased by 24,000 last month. Most of the gain came in the durable goods sector. Manufacturing employment has escalated 245,000 during the past 12 months, which works out to just more than 20,000 per month on average. So, manufacturers enjoyed an above-average gain in April. About three-fourths of this gain came in the durable goods industries.
On a seasonally adjusted basis, the number of workers employed in the plastics and rubber products industries totaled 726,700 in April. This was a rise of 1,500 workers from March, and it was up 13,800 workers (1.9 percent) from April 2017.
Average hourly earnings for production employees in the plastics and rubber products sector in April increased by 8 cents when compared with March to $18.32. This was a gain of 60 cents, or 3.3 percent when compared with the same month last year.
For managers in the plastics industry, there are several trends in all of this data that are worth monitoring.
The first is the remarkable consistency in the graph of the number of employees. For the past six years, the period from 2012-2017, the number of employees in the plastics and rubber products segment grew by a very steady 1.8 percent per year. This is close to, but still a bit below, the average growth in the overall U.S. economy during this time. And it is well below the average annual growth of 2.7 percent in the output of plastics products over this period.