US job creation surges in April as unemployment hits 49-year low
Help wanted sign (AFP Photo/Joe Raedle)

The United States had another giant month of job creation in April, with strong hiring in the vast services sector, and unemployment falling to a level not seen since 1969, the government reported Friday.

The blockbuster report will help allay fears of a slowing economy and cheer President Donald Trump as he seeks reelection next year.

As the second quarter began, employers scooped up workers in construction, health care, computer systems design, administrative support and other service industries, adding a total of 263,000 net new positions for the month, the data showed.

That was well above the result economists expected, and worker pay continued to climb, according to the closely-watch report from the Labor Department.

The jobless rate fell two tenths to 3.6 percent but the decline was in part because the pool of workers shrank and fewer people were looking for jobs, pulling them out of the labor force.

Average hourly pay also rose by 3.2 percent over April of last year, its ninth consecutive month with annual growth above three percent, again outstripping inflation and boosting purchasing power for American paychecks.

Compared to March, however, the increase in pay was only 0.2 percent, shy of forecasts.

Government hiring also was the strongest in eight months, with 27,000 jobs created. Financial services also continued to add employees.

- Manufacturing lags -

But hiring in the manufacturing sector was a weak spot for the third straight month, ending last year's long hiring streak. Durable goods employment was flat and the auto sector continuing to shed jobs.

In the 12 months prior to February, the manufacturing sector had added an average of 22,000 jobs a month, according to the report.

The retail sector also suffered yet more job losses, with 12,000 positions cut.

Hiring in mining, which includes oil and gas, as well as utilities was little changed, the data showed.

Nevertheless, April's brisk hiring pace should further dim hopes among investors that the Federal Reserve will feel pressure to cut interest rates in the near term.

As unemployment falls to half-century lows and workers become scarce, the continued strength of hiring has confounded predictions that companies would soon run out of people to hire, even as firms nationwide for months have complained they are struggling to fill open positions

And inflation has for several years defied the usual logic that low unemployment would cause wages and prices to rise.

Opinion is now divided among economists as to whether inflation later this year will at last spring to life and pressure the central bank to bump up lending rates -- the opposite of Trump's very loud demand for a drastic interest rate cut.