Great April jobs report? Not so fast

While the U.S. economy created 288,000 jobs in April, that’s not the number to look at to see how the economy is performing. Two numbers released today will tell you all you need to know about where we are and where we are going as a nation.

Not all jobs are created equal. Some provide good wages, others don’t. Some provide long term security, giving the employee confidence to plan for a future or big ticket purchases; others don’t.

Below the headline number of 288,000 jobs added in April, we can see a breakdown of what kind of jobs our economy is creating.

Two numbers tell us all we need to know:

In April, the U.S. added only 12,000 manufacturing jobs. Nearly half of those (5,200) were in the automotive sector. (Manufacturing of computers and semiconductors, once touted as the future, lost 2,400 jobs.)

But the U.S. added more than five times as many jobs, 67,100 altogether, in retail and “food services and drinking places,” which is how the Labor Department refers to waiters, bartenders, fast food workers and cooks.

Manufacturing jobs have been the ticket to the middle class for generations, providing better pay and more long-term job security than retail, waitressing or fast food jobs.

Perhaps there is a thin reed of hope. The economy also added 32,000 jobs in construction, with roughly a third of those in heavy and civil engineering projects, what we call “infrastructure.” The balance was divided between residential construction, 6,900 jobs, and construction of nonresidential buildings, 4,100 jobs.

Let’s hope those 4,100 construction workers are building factories and offices, not fast food restaurants and strip malls.

If we continue to outsource better paying jobs and the American economy cannot provide employment that gives our people the take home pay and confidence to build a family, we have no future, individually or as a society.