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U.S. Unemployment Drops to 6.3%; Adds 288,000 Jobs

Employers across the country added 288,000 jobs to their payrolls in April, bringing the unemployment rate down to a new post-crash low.

According to the latest report from the Labor Department, the rate of unemployment last month fell to 6.3 percent, down nearly half a percentage point after a flat March. At an estimated 9.8 million, the number of unemployed people was down by 733,000.

On top of that news, the government also announced upward revisions to payroll numbers for February and March, bringing them to 222,000 and 203,000, respectively. With the new data, employment gains over those two months increased an additional 36,000.

Bart van Ark, EVP and chief economist for the Conference Board, says April’s surprisingly strong pickup underscores the difficulties the economy has faced until recently.

“Weather, sequestration, a significant buildup of inventory and other factors have helped bottle up some of this strength. Now, it would appear, the absence of these factors is finally allowing the economy’s underlying strength to come to the surface,” van Ark said, adding, “The result is not just a relatively strong gain in jobs in April but probably more of the same in May and June and perhaps right through the summer.”

While the rise in payrolls is cause for celebration, part of the decline in the headline unemployment rate can also be attributed to a huge drop of 806,000 in the civilian labor force, which more than wiped out March’s increase of 503,000.

Meanwhile, more than a third of unemployed persons classify as “long-term unemployed”: those who have been out of a job for 27 weeks or longer.

Breaking down the numbers, job gains were widespread last month, with construction once again ranking near the top. According to the Labor Department, construction jobs grew by 32,000 in April, with major job growth in heavy and civil engineering (+11,000) and residential building (+7,000).

In the past year, the construction field has seen jobs increase by 189,000, with nearly three-quarters of that happening in just the past six months.

The other two big indicators in the monthly report—average length of the workweek and average hourly earnings—were unchanged at 34.5 hours and $24.31, respectively.

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