U.S. economy gains 115,000 jobs in April
Unemployment dips to 8.1% as more people stop looking for work
05/04 08:48 AM
WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- The U.S. economy created just 115,000 jobs in April as hiring slacked off for a second straight month, according to the government's latest employment figures.
The unemployment rate fell slightly to 8.1% from 8.2%, but the decline stemmed almost entirely from an increase in the number of people who stopped looking for work. Some 342,000 people dropped out of the labor force, the Labor Department reported Friday.
Job growth in the last two months has been cut almost in half compared to the winter months of December through February, suggesting that businesses have turned cautious again.
Many economists believe an unusually warm winter pulled job creation forward at the expense of hiring that normally takes place in the spring. Yet the slower rate of hiring in April is just one of many recent economic reports that have raised concerns about the whether the recovery is softening.
The U.S. was expected to add 163,000 jobs in April, according to a survey of economists polled by MarketWatch.
On the brighter side, job growth was revised modestly higher for both March and February. The increase in employment in March was revised up to 154,000 from an initial reading of 120,000. And the gain in February was revised up to 259,000 from 240,000.
Wall Street's initial reaction was one of caution. Stock-index futures drifted lower after the payrolls report was issued.
The biggest increase in jobs last month took place in the category of professional services: Employment rose by 62,000, including a 21,000 gain in temporary jobs. Temp work often leads to full-time jobs.
Other industries that boosted hiring included retail (29,000), health care (19,000), manufacturing (16,000), and bars and restaurants (20,000).
Government employment fell again, shedding 15,000 jobs, and transportation and warehousing lost 17,000 jobs.
The average work week for April was unchanged at 34.5 hours, while average hourly earnings rose 1 cent to $23.38.
Some 12.5 million Americans were officially classified as unemployed last month. The so-called U6 jobless rate, which includes discouraged jobseekers and those forced to work part-time, was flat at 14.5%.
The labor-force participation rate, meanwhile, fell to 63.6% from 63.8%. That's often a negative sign because it usually means people think jobs are harder to find.