WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The pace of hiring has slowed in the U.S. in April for the third consecutive month, but the unemployment rate decreased in parallel to return to a low of more than three years, painting a mixed picture of the market U.S. labor a few months before the presidential election.
The Labor Department said Friday that the economy added just 115,000 jobs in April. That’s below March’s upwardly revised 154,000 jobs and far fewer than the pace earlier this year.
Economists anticipated 170,000 net new jobs for the month of April after the 120,000 originally announced for March.
The unemployment rate, calculated from a separate survey, returned to 8.1% of the workforce, against 8.2% in March and 8.3% in February, a level not seen since January 2009 when it was 7.8%.
On average, employment grew by 197,000 per month over the last six months.
“We continue to advance slowly,” notes Nigel Gault, economist at HIS Global Insight. “The hires come close to what can be expected during periods of sluggish growth.”
The Labor Department statistics are observed under the microscope at the White House where we know that Barack Obama’s reelection will depend largely on the ability of the U.S. economy to resume growth and strong employment.
His Republican opponent Mitt Romney often criticized for not doing enough to encourage the return to employment.
Unemployment, which peaked at 10% during the first year in office Barack Obama has remained close to 9% for almost all of 2011 before declining during the winter.
It remains two percentage points above its average level over the last 50 years and, in the opinion of the Federal Reserve, it should not show real recovery for several years.
The difficulty of forecasting the evolution of solid to expect from the job market is further justified by the irregular signals sent by the statistics since the beginning of the year.
During the winter, the sharp acceleration of hirings time left to analysts believe that the recovery had taken a turn before a slowdown is felt in March, fueling fears of a slowdown in resumption.
For most economists, the mild weather winter has muddied the waters by supporting the hiring in anticipation of winter. In spring, however, employers have recruited less, giving the sensation of sinking.