April Sees Strong Job Growth

Companies added 274,000 new jobs to their payrolls in April, significantly more than forecast. The increases were spread across industries, from construction and mining to health care and leisure. The Department of Labor also revised February and March figures upward.

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

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And I'm Melissa Block.

There was some unexpectedly good news today about the economy. Last month, businesses created more jobs than economists projected, and the increases were spread across industries from construction and mining to health care and leisure. As NPR's Frank Langfitt reports, the strong numbers come as a relief to analysts worried that the economy has been slowing.

FRANK LANGFITT reporting:

The US created 274,000 new jobs in April. The Department of Labor also revised February and March figures upward. The result: healthy growth averaging about 240,000 jobs each month.

The rosy employment report is good news amid concerns that the nation's Gross Domestic Product is growing at a slower pace. Bill Cheney is chief economist at John Hancock Financial Services.

Mr. BILL CHENEY (John Hancock Financial Services): I think this is, on the face of it, a very welcome report. I think it's good news on almost every front. You're seeing more jobs, better wage growth, but nothing too exciting that would produce an inflation scare for the Fed. So really this is, in many ways, the best news we could have expected to get.

LANGFITT: Analysts have been concerned about the impact of rising fuel costs. Some say the new figures suggest many firms aren't as vulnerable to energy prices as in the past. Rajeev Dhawan runs the Economic Forecasting Center at Georgia State University in Atlanta.

Mr. RAJEEV DHAWAN (Economic Forecasting Center, Georgia State University): Well, all the reports coming out in April were pointing towards a negative aspect, and especially the oil prices. But this report shows that in the last six months, we have created more than 1.1 million jobs, which shows really clearly that oil is not a problem for the firms that are hiring people.

LANGFITT: With school commencements coming up, analysts say students should have more opportunities than in recent years. Stuart Hoffmann is chief economist for PNC Financial in Pittsburgh.

Mr. STUART HOFFMANN (PNC Financial): Either recent or about-to-be-new college and high school graduates should have a much easier time finding a gainful job in the next couple of months, say, than their older brother or sister had two or three or four years ago when recent graduates really came out into a much tougher job market.

LANGFITT: Some of the strongest growth last month came in construction, which created 47,000 jobs. As in the past, the one area where jobs fell was manufacturing. Rajeev Dhawan says that's too bad because manufacturing often pays well. He says that's not the case with many of the new jobs.

Mr. DHAWAN: One thing I would like to caution people about--of these 1.1 million people, only 10 to 11 percent were what we call high-paying jobs. The rest of the things were either not well-paying or so-so. Now if it was a great recovery, say, like, in the mid-'90s, then at least 20 percent of these jobs would have been high-paying.

LANGFITT: Despite the job growth, last month's unemployment rate held steady at 5.2 percent. One reason, analysts said: More people were out looking for work. Frank Langfitt, NPR News, Washington.

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