Payrolls in US rise by 211,000, jobless rate falls to 4.4%

Workers help re-pave a road in South Pasadena, California. PHOTO: AFP
Workers help re-pave a road in South Pasadena, California. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - US payroll gains rebounded in April by more than forecast and the jobless rate unexpectedly fell to 4.4 per cent, signaling that the labour market remains healthy and should support continued increases in consumer spending.

The 211,000 increase followed a 79,000 advance in March that was lower than previously estimated, a Labor Department report showed Friday. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for a 190,000 gain. While the unemployment rate is now the lowest since May 2007, wages were a soft spot in the report, climbing 2.5 per cent from a year earlier.

The brighter figures follow a weaker-than-expected reading in March, when payrolls were partly depressed by a snowstorm that slammed the Northeast during the survey week. Strengthening business sentiment might be translating into hiring, and the data should keep Federal Reserve policy makers on track to raise interest rates in the coming months after officials declared the first-quarter slowdown to be temporary.

"The labor market has progressively gotten tighter and tighter," Jim O'Sullivan, chief US economist at High Frequency Economics Ltd in Valhalla, New York, said before the report. The job-growth trend is "pretty strong, relative to the demographics - more than enough to keep unemployment down over time."

The report showed revisions to the previous two months subtracted 6,000 jobs from payrolls. The first quarter saw a 176,000 average monthly increase after a 187,000 average pace in 2016.