US employers add solid 223K jobs
WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. employers added 223,000 jobs in April, a solid gain that suggests the economy may be recovering after stumbling at the start of the year.
The Labor Department said Friday that the unemployment rate dipped to 5.4 percent from 5.5 percent in March. That is the lowest rate since May 2008, six months into the Great Recession.
The figures indicate that employers remain confident enough in the outlook to add jobs at a steady pace. That could help fuel a rebound after economic growth ground to a near-halt in the first quarter.
Yet the report included signs of sluggishness: March's weak job gain was revised sharply down to just 85,000 from 126,000. In the past three months, employers have added 191,000 positions, a decent gain but down from last year's average of 260,000.
And the job gains aren't yet pushing up paychecks by much. Average hourly wages rose just 3 cents last month to $24.87. Wages are up 2.2 percent in the past 12 months, about the same tepid pace as the past six years.
Some trends that held back growth earlier this year are still apparent in the jobs report. The mining industry, which includes oil and gas, cut 15,000 jobs in its fourth straight loss. Oil drilling has fallen sharply in the wake of last year's plunge in oil prices.
Manufacturers gained only 1,000 jobs after a flat reading in March. That's down from an average gain of 18,000 a month last year. The strong dollar, which makes U.S. exports more expensive overseas, is weighing on factory output.
Construction firms, however, picked up much of the slack, adding 45,000 jobs, the most in 16 months. Health care gained 56,000 jobs.
The figures add to other evidence that the economy is picking up.
Home sales staged a big comeback in March, a sign more Americans are making expensive purchases. People bought existing homes at an annual pace of 5.19 million, the National Association of Realtors said. Those gains are expected to extend into April based on figures on signed contracts released by the Realtors. This would help spur additional growth in the construction sector as builders seek to meet demand.
Americans also appear to be stepping up their spending. Service firms such as restaurants, retailers and banks grew at a faster pace in April than in March, according to a survey by the Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing managers.
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