News

Unemployment at lowest levels in over 5 years

Unemployment at lowest levels in over 5 years

JOBLESS:Erin Wilson, of Hannaford Bros. supermarket company, left, talks with a job seeker during a job fair Columbia-Greene Community College in Hudson, N.Y. The Labor Department releases weekly jobless claims on Thursday, April 24. Photo: Associated Press/Mike Groll

By Lucia Mutikani

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. job growth increased at its fastest pace in more than two years in April and the unemployment rate dived to a 5-1/2 year low of 6.3 percent, suggesting a sharp rebound in economic activity early in the second quarter.

Nonfarm payrolls surged 288,000 last month, the Labor Department said on Friday. That was the largest gain since January 2012 and beat Wall Street’s expectations for only a 210,000 increase.

The unemployment rate tumbled 0.4 percentage point, touching its lowest level since September 2008. The Labor Department attributed the decline to a drop in the number of unemployed people reentering the labor market as well as a fall in new entrants into the labor force.

The economy stalled in the first quarter, weighed down by an unusually cold and disruptive winter. A slow pace of stock accumulation by businesses, while they work through a glut of goods amassed in the second half of 2013, also undercut growth.

The employment report joins other upbeat data such as consumer spending and industrial production in suggesting the first quarter’s 0.1 percent annual growth pace was an aberration and is not a reflection of the economy’s otherwise sound fundamentals.

The Federal Reserve on Wednesday shrugged off the dismal performance. The U.S. central bank, which announced further reductions to the amount of money it is pumping into the economy through monthly bond purchases, said indications were that “growth in economic activity has picked up recently.”

Economists expect second-quarter growth to top a 3 percent pace.

While details of the bigger survey of employers were upbeat, the smaller and volatile household survey from which the unemployment rate is calculated was mixed.

Household employment fell slightly after increasing robustly in the first quarter. The labor force, which also grew during the same period as improving job prospects encouraged some job seekers who had given up the hunt to resume looking for work, declined sharply in April.

The labor force participation rate, or the share of working-age Americans who are employed and unemployed but looking for a job, fell 0.4 percentage point to 62.8 percent. That was the lowest level since last December.

Some of the 1.35 million people who lost their longer-term unemployment benefits at the end of last December could have dropped out the labor force last month.

The participation rate and the persistently high number of Americans out of work for long spells could keep the Fed from lifting interest rates for some time to come.

April job gains were broad based. Government payrolls rose by 15,000. Manufacturing employment increased 12,000. Construction payrolls gained 32,000, but the hiring trend could slow in the months ahead as residential construction loses some steam.

Average hourly earnings were flat in April. The length of the workweek held steady at 34.5 hours in April after bouncing back in March from its winter-depressed levels.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

Recent Headlines

in National

Police seek motive in fatal Washington state school shooting

mp

Authorities are seeking a motive as to why a high school student shot dead a female classmate and wounded four others.

in Sports

This week’s top sports shots

royals

A look at some of this week's best moments in sports.

in Sports

This weekend’s sports schedule

worldseries

A complete look at this weekend's sports schedule.

in National

Making headlines this week

AP977488553978

A look at some of this week's biggest newsmakers.

in National

Student opens fire in high school north of Seattle

People embrace in front of school busses at a church, Friday, Oct. 24, 2014, where students were taken to be reunited with parents following a shooting at Marysville Pilchuck High School in Marysville, Wash.

A student opened fire at his Washington state high school on Friday, killing one person, and wounding at least four others.