By Don Lee
The jobless rate inched down to 8.1 percent last month, the Labor Department said Friday, but that wasn’t because more people were employed. Rather, the rate fell as more workers dropped out of the labor force.
The April jobs report was highly anticipated because job growth slowed sharply in March after three strong winter months of payroll gains averaging 252,000. Labor officials Friday revised job growth upward in March to 154,000 from 120,000 previously reported, but that didn’t change the overall picture: The economy is advancing but at a frustratingly slow pace. The data also suggest the mild winter weather may have given an artificial boost to payrolls during the winter, resulting in a correction in spring.
Job growth last month was bolstered by continued strength in manufacturing, which added 16,000 jobs to payrolls, and professional services such as architecture, engineering and computer systems design also increased staffing. But most of the gains in April came in industries paying relatively lower wages: Hiring by retailers rebounded, and food services and temporary-help agencies also bulked up.
Transportation and warehousing lost 17,000 jobs last month, and government payrolls fell by 15,000.
Wages overall were subdued; average earnings for all private-sector employees went up by a mere penny from March, to $23.38 an hour. That was up 1.8 percent from a year ago, below the rate of inflation. The average workweek, a leading indicator, was unchanged in April at 34.5 hours.
©2012 Tribune Co.
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