Unemployment Falls to 18-year Low, Dipping Below the 4 Percent Mark

The Labor Department released its April hiring and unemployment report Friday, providing the latest snapshot of the economy.The unemployment rate was 3.9 percent, the lowest rate since 2000 and a sign that the job market has become even more competitive. It had been 4.1 percent since October.164,000 jobs were added last month. Wall Street economists had expected an increase of about 193,000, according to Bloomberg.The Labor Department revised the job figures for February slightly downward but revised the numbers for March sharply upward. The result was a net increase of 30,000 jobs, compared with previous estimates.Average earnings rose by 4 cents an hour last month and are up 2.6 percent over the past year.The TakeawayU.S. employers continue to find reasons to expand their payrolls. April marked the 91st consecutive month of job gains, far and away the longest streak of increases on record. The average monthly gain has declined each year since 2014, but that's normal for an economy that's been in recovery for such an extended period."We've continued to add jobs routinely every month for so long, and the unemployment rate we have reached is amazing," said Catherine Barrera, chief economist of online job site ZipRecruiter. "This is the economy doing well."But the future has become clouded as President Donald Trump continues to flirt with a trade war. The White House has offered little clarity about whether its newly imposed steel and aluminum tariffs will extend to allies like Mexico, Canada and the European Union, and it seems no closer to smoothing over economic tensions with China.Economists say it is too soon to tell how employers may change their staffing or expansion plans in response to the tariffs on Chinese goods, or to Beijing's retaliation. But there are signs that companies that buy metals are feeling the effects already. The Institute for Supply Management said this week that manufacturing activity grew in April at its slowest pace since July.Uncertainty over the price of raw materials could prompt factories to cut back from their recent hiring spree. Manufacturers added 73,000 jobs in the first quarter, much more than in the same period last year.  Continue reading...

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