Unemployment Rate Climbs to 8.9 percent

Employers cut 539,000 jobs last month, the fewest in six months and significantly fewer than the 699,000 jobs that had been lost the previous month, the U.S. Labor Department reported on Friday.

While the April jobs report came in somewhat better than expected the unemployment rate climbed to 8.9%, the highest since Sept. 1983, leaving investors without any clear sign that the economy is improving. Still, considering employers last month cut the fewest jobs since 380,000 in October, it can be argued that as the speed of job losses eases the worst has passed in terms of weakness in the U.S. labor market in the recession. The breadth of job loss, nonetheless, remains large.

From BLS: Employment in manufacturing fell by 149,000 over the month, with widespread job losses among the component industries.
Three durable goods industries–transportation equipment (-34,000), fabricated metal products (-29,000), and machinery (-22,000)–accounted for more than half of the decline.

Construction employment declined by 110,000 in April, with losses spread throughout the sector. Over the past 6 months, job losses have averaged 120,000 per month, compared with 46,000 per month from December 2007 through October 2008.

The professional and business services industry lost 122,000 jobs in April.

Employment in retail trade fell by 47,000 in April.

Employment in transportation and warehousing declined by 38,000 in April, with losses concentrated in truck transportation (-16,000) and warehousing and storage (-8,000).

Health care employment grew by 17,000 in April. Job gains in health care have averaged 17,000 per month thus far in 2009, down from an average of 30,000 per month during 2008.

Overall, the number of the unemployed has grown by 6 million over the last four quarters, with the rate jumping 3.9%.

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