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April job gains rebound to 223,000; unemployment dips

April job gains rebound to 223,000; unemployment dips

Milder weather helped the labor market shake off a winter chill in April as employers added 223,000 jobs. The unemployment rate fell from 5.5% to 5.4%, lowest since May 2008. Wall Street breathed a sigh of relief. The Dow Jones industrial average was up about 255 points, or 1.4%, in mid-morning trading. Economists surveyed by Action Economics expected payroll gains of 225,000, according to their median forecast.jobs-in-america

March gains were revised down to 85,000 from a previously reported 126,000, the Labor Department said Friday. February’s payroll gains were revised up by 2,000 to 266,000. Businesses added 213,000 jobs on strong advances by professional and business services, health care and construction. Federal, state and local governments added 10,000. Mining employment continued to decline, falling by 15,000, as energy companies shed workers because of low crude oil prices.

Wage growth, sluggish throughout the recovery, ticked up a bit. Average hourly earnings increased 3 cents to $24.87 an hour. Over the past year, pay is up 2.2%, in line with previous tepid advances. Some other signs were more encouraging. A broader measure of joblessness — which includes discouraged workers who have stopped looking for jobs and part-time employees who prefer full-time work as well as the unemployed — slipped to 10.8% from 10.9%. And the number of Americans out of work at least six months fell by 38,000 to 2.5 million. They now make up 29% of all those unemployed.

Chris Williamson, chief economist of Markit, wrote to clients that the report suggests “that the soft-patch seen earlier in the year was temporary.” Many economists expect the government to revise down its 0.2% estimate of first-quarter economic growth to a 0.3% contraction. But noting the downward revision to already-weak March job gains, economist Paul Ashworth of Capital Economics called the report “a mixed bag.” He said it likely isn’t enough to prompt the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates at its June meeting. Fed officials have said they’re holding off in part because of unusually low inflation. Last month, professional and business services added 62,000 jobs, while healthcare and construction each added 45,000.