Unemployment Rate Drops to Near 7-Year Low

Jobseekers wait to talk to a recruiter at the Colorado Hospital Association's health care career event in Denver

But the numbers from March are far worse than expected

U.S. employers added 223,000 jobs in April, just 3,000 more than economists had anticipated, but signaling a labor market rebound following a poor showing in March that was dented by poor weather.

The Labor Department published April’s employment figures Friday morning, with the report showing job gains for professional and business services, health care, and construction. While it is encouraging that job growth last month exceeded Wall Street’s expectations, March was even worse than anticipated. Revised figures showed U.S. employers added just 85,000 jobs in March, far worse than the original reported figure of 126,000 and the smallest since June 2012.

Here are the highlights from this morning’s jobs report.

What you need to know: April was the 55th straight month of employment gains in the U.S. The growth last month also returned the U.S. labor market to +200,000 territory. The economy had been on a 12-month streak of gains above that threshold until it was derailed by a poor showing in March.

Hourly wages climbed just 3 cents to $24.87, and over the year average hourly earnings grew by just 2.2%. The wage gains in 2015 have so far fallen short of the 3% annual wage growth that was seen prior to 2007. That weakness comes even as many major retail and restaurant chains have issued splashy announcements proclaiming promises to hike up wages for their lowest paid employees.

The big numbers: The nation’s unemployment rate slipped to a near seven-year low of 5.4% in April from 5.5% the prior month, matching the expectations of economists surveyed by Bloomberg. The number of long-term unemployed was little changed at 2.5 million.

What you may have missed: A few industries reportedly fairly balanced job growth last month. The professional and business services sectors led the charge, but health care and construction job gains weren’t too far behind.

A notable laggard was mining, which the Labor Department reported saw a drop in employment of 15,000. Much of those losses were for mining and oil and gas extraction. Muted energy prices have pressured that industry, resulting in job losses for a sector that had until recently been a star performer.

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