Unemployment rate ticked down in April, but barely

Posted: May 05, 2012

The nation's job situation remains stubbornly stuck in neutral, with the economy adding 115,000 jobs in April while the unemployment rate declined slightly to 8.1 percent, the U.S. Labor Department reported Friday.

Wall Street wasn't happy with the news, as the Dow fell 167 points, to 13,039, by 1 p.m.

"We are likely seeing continued uncertainty over the state of the economy," said Joel Naroff, chief economist with Naroff Economic Advisors in Bucks County. "As for the payroll numbers, they were downers."

Economists say that employment must expand by 100,000 to 150,000 jobs a month to accommodate population growth.

Manufacturing, retailing and professional and business services all added jobs in April, as did education and health services. Government funding continued to drop, with 10,700 jobs lost in local public education. There were also declines in construction, ground passenger transportation, and leisure activities.

Comparing the statistics from a year ago, employment has clearly improved, Friday's report showed. The ranks of the employed have grown by 2.2 million, while the number of unemployed has dropped by nearly 1.8 million to 12.5 million.

"Today's employment report provides further evidence that the economy is continuing to heal from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, but much more remains to be done to repair the damage caused by the financial crisis and the deep recession," said Alan B. Krueger, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

In Pennsylvania, where the unemployment rate was 7.5 percent in March, that improvement means that, effective the week ending May 12, the state's long-term unemployed will no longer be able to receive the last 13 weeks of unemployment benefits.

Earlier in the recession, unemployed people were able to receive as many as 99 weeks of benefits, but as the economy has gotten better, some weeks already have been cut. After this most recent cut, Pennsylvania's unemployed will be able to receive a maximum of 73 weeks of benefits, down from 86 weeks.

In New Jersey, where March's unemployment rate was 9 percent, the unemployed can receive a maximum of 99 weeks of benefits.


Contact Jane M. Von Bergen at 215-854-2769, jvonbergen@phillynews.com or @JaneVonBergen on Twitter. Read her Jobbing blog at www.philly.com/jobbing.

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