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U.S. Unemployment Drops To 3.9 Percent — Lowest Since 2000


Updated at 10 a.m. ET

The U.S. economy had a net gain of 164,000 jobs last month. Unemployment — which had stood at 4.1 percent since October 2017 — fell to 3.9 percent, according to Friday's report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The last time the U.S. jobless percentage sat below 4 percent was in 2000, when unemployment stayed at 3.9 percent for the final four months of the year.

Economic analysts had predicted a gain of more than 190,000 jobs in April. They also expected to see the unemployment level drop slightly.

Despite falling short of expectations, the numbers represent a rebound from the previous month: The initial report for March had said only 103,000 jobs were added. That number was revised to a gain of 135,000 jobs in Friday's report.

The low unemployment level "is finally spurring the wage growth economists have been looking for," said Rebecca Henderson, the CEO of Randstad Sourceright.

Saying that employers are under "enormous pressure" to attract and retain the best employees, Henderson added that the results could also empower women and companies wanting to end the gender wage gap. It's a "perfect storm of labor market and cultural transformation," Henderson said.

Coming into this month, "wages showed a moderate 2.7 percent annual increase," NPR's John Ydstie reported. "Analysts have been expecting wages to rise more rapidly, as the number of available workers shrinks."

Average hourly pay for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased by 4 cents, to $26.84.

"Wages were up 2.6 percent year over year, suggesting that inflation pressures are not building up in the economy," LendingTree Chief Economist Tendayi Kapfidze said of the results. "The outlook for rates is heavily dependent on expectations for inflation, which in term are influenced by wages."

Kapfidze added, "This report suggests that mortgages are unlikely to move much higher in the near term."

One sector that saw job growth was professional and business services, which got a boost of 54,000 positions. "Over the past 12 months, the industry has added 518,000 jobs," the BLS said.

Also on the upswing: manufacturing and health care, both of which saw a gain of 24,000 jobs.

As for how much of the U.S. is working, the BLS said, "Both the labor force participation rate, at 62.8 percent, and the employment-population ratio, at 60.3 percent, changed little in April."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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