Businesses Add Only 115,000 Jobs In April; Unemployment 8.1%

April jobs report Labor DepartmentBy Paul Wiseman

WASHINGTON -- Businesses added only 115,000 jobs in April, another weak month of job creation, but the unemployment rate came down to 8.1 percent from 8.2 percent.

Previous months' payroll numbers were revised upward. The Labor Department said 154,000 jobs were added in March, versus the 120,000 estimated a month ago, and 259,000 jobs in February. The Labor Department report said employment increased in professional and business services, retail trade and health care last month, but declined in transportation and warehousing.

Although there have been mixed signals from different sectors of the economy recently, economists say the U.S. recovery looks enduring. It's just not very strong.

Hiring, housing, consumer spending and manufacturing all appear to be improving, yet remain less than healthy. Economists surveyed by The Associated Press expect growth to pick up this year, but not enough to lower unemployment much.

"The outlook is for continued moderate growth," John Williams, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, said in a speech Thursday. "Nonetheless, we have nearly 4½ million fewer jobs today than five years ago, and the unemployment rate remains very high at 8.2 percent."

The 32 economists polled by the AP late last month are confident the economy has entered a "virtuous cycle" in which more hiring boosts consumer spending, which leads to further hiring and spending. They expect unemployment to drop below 8 percent by Election Day.

But they still think the rate won't reach a historically normal level below 6 percent until 2015 or later. And they predict hiring will slow the rest of this year from a relatively brisk December-February pace.

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