WASHINGTON - The U.S. unemployment rate fell by 0.4 percent in April, to 6.3 percent, the largest decline in the percentage in months, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said. A separate survey said businesses claimed to create 273,000 new jobs, while governments added 15,000.
The number of unemployed declined by 733,000 in one month, to 9.75 million, the first time in years the ranks of the jobless have dipped below 10 million. But 73,000 fewer people were employed in April than in March and those "not in the labor force" swelled by 988,000.
"The drop was entirely the result of 800,000 people leaving the labor force," said Dean Baker, director of the pro-worker Center for Economic Policy and Research. "Employment, as measured in the household survey, actually fell by 73,000. The employment-to-population ratio remained unchanged at 58.9 percent." He called data from the firms "unambiguously positive."
BLS said the number of long-term jobless - those without work for at least six months - declined by 287,000, to 3.45 million, or 35.3 percent of the jobless. They're the workers who have been stuck without extended federal unemployment benefits since last Dec. 28.
And the proportion of the unemployed and underemployed, including those working part-time when they want full-time jobs and those so discouraged they stopped seeking work, is still one of every eight workers (12.3 percent), down from 12.7 percent the month before.
The Democratic Senate majority has tried to extend the federal benefits, but run into successful GOP filibusters against the legislation. The GOP-run House refuses to even vote on extending the jobless aid.
The high-paying construction sector and the low-paying sectors of health care, temps, retail trade and bars and restaurants led the way in job creation. Firms in each of those sectors reported creating between 24,000 jobs (temps) and 34,500 jobs (retail) last month.
Factories added 12,000 jobs in April, with all but 1,000 of those in durable goods, rising to 12.1 million. Almost half of the gains were in cars and parts plants. There were 790,000 jobless factory workers in April (5.2 percent).
Construction created 32,000 new jobs in April, but still had 796,000 jobless workers, or 9.4 percent unemployment, BLS said. Economists noted construction began to pick up once the nation dug out of severe and extended winter storms, but construction union leaders say the official numbers understate joblessness there, since a worker employed for one day during the survey week is counted as being on the job for the full month - even if that isn't the case.
Retail trade, bars and restaurants (+32,600 jobs) and health care (+27,900) led the way in service sector job gains. Overall, service producers claimed they added 220,000 jobs. And while the federal government continued to shed workers, local governments, and especially local schools, added them. Local schools accounted for 12,000 added jobs in April.