NPR's business news starts with job losses that could have been worse. Employers cut some jobs in April, but far fewer than most economists had predicted. When you look at the statistics, in fact, unemployment actually edged lower, down to five percent. All of this comes out of a closely watched jobs report released this morning, as NPR's Chris Arnold reports.

CHRIS ARNOLD: There were a total of 20,000 jobs lost in April. That might not sound so great, but economists were forecasting a loss of 80,000. So the numbers are better than expected. That's a big deal because the jobs report is one of the best thermometers for the overall economy. Peter Morici is an economist at the University of Maryland.

Professor PETER MORICI (University of Maryland): It's good news that it isn't down more. Normally recession levels will be job losses of 100,000 a month or more, and we just haven't seen those. So this is some good news, that it isn't as deep as we were fearful that it could be.

ARNOLD: Morici says the weak dollar is helping to boost exports overseas. He also says there weren't as many job losses in financial services as expected. He thinks that's because while mortgage lenders were firing salespeople, they're hiring people to deal with all the foreclosures. But Morici says the economy is still losing jobs.

Professor MORICI: The economy is slowing. But we're not going to have a catastrophic recession. I think we're headed for a shallow recession.

ARNOLD: There were job gains in governments, education and health services, but there were pretty heavy job losses in manufacturing and construction. And Morici says the economy is still facing some big problems.

Professor MORICI: We have a lot of problems that have built up. We have trouble in the banks. We have gasoline at $3.60 a gallon. We have a huge supply of unsold homes. Consumers are terribly in debt and have to dig themselves out.

ARNOLD: Morici says all that's likely to keep the economy sputtering for at least the next year.

Chris Arnold, NPR News.

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