WASHINGTON (AP) – The U.S. economy showed last month why it remains the envy of industrialized nations: In the face of tax increases and federal spending cuts, employers added a solid 165,000 jobs in April – and far more in February and March than anyone thought.
The job growth in April drove down the unemployment rate to a four-year low of 7.5 percent and sent a reassuring sign that the U.S. job market is improving. Coming after a poor jobs report for March, the figures the government issued Friday helped ease fears that U.S. hiring might be slumping this spring for a fourth straight year.
The Labor Department revised up its estimate of job gains in February and March by a combined 114,000. It now says employers added 332,000 jobs in February and 138,000 in March. The economy has created an average of 208,000 jobs a month from November through April – above the 138,000 added in the previous six months.
“This is a good report,” said John Silvia, chief economist at Wells Fargo. “There’s a lot of strength. ... It’s good for the economy. It’s good for people’s income.”
The stronger job growth suggests that the federal budget cutting “does not mean recession,” Silvia said. “It does not mean a dramatic slowdown.”
The unemployment rate has fallen 0.4 percentage point since the start of the year, though it remains high. The Federal Reserve has said it plans to keep short-term interest rates at record lows at least until unemployment falls to 6.5 percent.
The hiring last month was concentrated in services. Construction companies and governments cut jobs. Manufacturing employment was flat.
Some higher-paying sectors added workers. Professional and technical services, which includes accounting, engineering and architecture, added 23,000 jobs. Education and health services added 44,000.
But the biggest job gains were in lower-paying fields, such as hotels and restaurants, which added 45,000 jobs, and retail, which added 29,000. Temporary help firms gained 31,000 positions.
The job growth is occurring while the U.S. economy is growing modestly but steadily. It expanded at a 2.5 percent annual rate in the January-March quarter, fueled by the strongest consumer spending in two years.
Consumers have been spending more even though their take-home pay was shrunk this year by a Social Security tax increase.
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