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US economy adds more jobs than expected

Analysts say economy benefiting from resurgent housing market, rising consumer confidence and government stimulus.

Last Modified: 04 May 2013 02:00
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Job creation in April was strongest in the professional and business services sector, retail trade and health care [AFP]

The US economy added 165,000 jobs for the month of April, exceeding expectations while driving down the unemployment rate to a four-year low of 7.5 percent.

The US labour department report released on Friday also revised sharply upward the job numbers for February and March, adding 114,000 new jobs, higher than previously reported.

Analysts said the economy is benefiting from a resurgent housing market, rising consumer confidence and the government's stimulus actions, which have helped lower borrowing costs and lift the stock market.

"Businesses haven't lost confidence yet,'' said Sung Won Sohn, an economist at the Martin Smith School of Business at California State University. "Consumers are feeling better. The decent employment gains will add to the optimism and help lift future spending."

The gains came even as taxes rose and government spending tightened under the sharp "sequester" cuts, which still threaten to hold economic growth back this year.

The improved numbers for the first quarter of 2013 underscored steady if not spectacular gains in the job market in the past year. In April 2012, the jobless rate was 8.1 percent.

Coming after a poor March jobs report and some recent data showing economic weakness, the April figures helped ease fears that US hiring might be slumping for a fourth straight year.

Better-than-expected numbers

As over most of the past year, April's gains were all in the private sector, as government continued to shed jobs.

Job creation was strongest in the professional and business services sector, tourism and entertainment, retail trade and health care, while industrial sector jobs shrank.

The better-than-expected data pushed the stock market up: The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 142 points, or nearly 1 percent, to a record a record 14,973. It briefly broke 15,000 for the first time.

Alan Krueger, chairman of the White House's Council of Economic Advisers, said the data showed the economy's continuing pull away from the 2008-2009 recession.

But he warned that the push to further reduce government spending by Republicans in Congress could hurt growth.

"Now is not the time for Washington to impose self-inflicted wounds on the economy," he said in a statement.

The job growth is occurring while the US economy is growing modestly but steadily, recording a 2.5 percent annual rate in the January-March quarter, fueled by the strongest consumer spending in two years.

The housing recovery is helping drive more hiring. Rising home sales and construction help create jobs and increase spending on furniture, landscaping and other services.

Friday's report said the number of people who have been unemployed for more than six months dropped 258,000 to 4.4 million.

Over the past year, the number of long-term unemployed has declined by 687,000. That is down from a peak of 6.7 million in 2010, but far above pre-recession levels of about 1.3 million.

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Source:
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