Unemployment rate dips to 8.1 percent

May 4, 2012 at 1:33 PM
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WASHINGTON, May 4 (UPI) -- The U.S. economy added 115,000 jobs in April, dropping the unemployment rate to 8.1 percent, the U.S. Labor Department said Friday.

Much of the decrease from 8.2 percent was due to large numbers of people dropping out of the workforce.

The Labor Department said the private sector added 130,000 jobs but the number of government jobs continues to shrink.

Gains were posted in professional and business services (up 62,000), retail trade (29,000), healthcare (19,000) and leisure and hospitality (20,000). Manufacturing added 16,000 jobs but transportation and warehousing lost 17,000.

Average hourly earnings rose 1 cent to $23.38.

"Today's employment report provides further evidence that the economy is continuing to heal," said White House Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Alan Krueger.

The economy has added 4.25 million jobs in 26 months, Krueger said.

"So far this year, 827,000 private-sector jobs have been added, on net," he said.

Others, though, had a grim reaction to the numbers.

University of Maryland economics Professor Peter Morici said the unemployment rate fell in April "because another 522,000 adults quit looking for work and are no longer counted."

He said, "More than four-fifths of the reduction in unemployment has been accomplished by a dropping adult labor force participation rate -- essentially, persuading adults they don't need a job or the job they could find is not worth having."

Chief economist Chris Williamson at the Markit research firm called the report, "Another big disappointment for the U.S. economy in the form of another month of weak hiring."

The job-gain estimate for March was revised from 120,000 to 154,000. Job additions in February came to 259,000, another upward revision.

"It is looking more and more like we will see a repeat of last year's spring and summer lull in job creation," said John Challenger, chief executive officer of outplacement consultancy firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

"While some would like to attribute the lack of hiring to uncertainty and regulatory roadblocks, the fact is that demand for goods and services simply has not reached a level that warrants accelerated hiring," he said.

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