Employers cut fewer jobs in April as signs emerged that the worst of the U.S. recession had passed and hiring for the next census boosted government staffing by the most since 2001.
Payrolls fell by 539,000, after a 699,000 loss in March, the Labor Department said today in Washington. The jobless rate still jumped to 8.9 percent, the highest since September 1983, and probably won't start retreating until an economic recovery is secured.
Revisions subtracted 66,000 from payroll figures previously reported for March and February.
One bright spot was government, with public payrolls rising by 72,000 after falling by 6,000. The U.S. Census Bureau began hiring 140,000 temporary workers last month to start conducting the population count that happens once every 10 years. It will hire more than 1.4 million people over the next year.
Since the recession started in December 2007, the world's largest economy has lost 5.7 million jobs, the most of any economic slump since the Great Depression.
Today's report showed factory payrolls fell by 149,000 after decreasing by 167,000 in the prior month. The decline included a drop of 29,100 jobs in auto manufacturing and parts industries.
Payrolls at builders fell 110,000 after decreasing 135,000. Financial firms decreased payrolls by 40,000, after a 43,000 drop the prior month.
Service industries, which include banks, insurance companies, restaurants and retailers, subtracted 269,000 workers after falling 381,000. Retail payrolls decreased by 46,700 after a 63,900 decline.
Today's report also showed the average work week held at 33.2 hours in April. Average weekly hours worked by production workers rose to 39.6 hours from 39.4 hours, while overtime increased to 2.7 hours from 2.6 hours. That brought the average weekly earnings up to $614.53 from $614.20.
Workers' average hourly wages were little changed at $18.51 from the prior month. Hourly earnings were 3.2 percent higher than April 2008. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had forecast a 0.2 percent increase from the prior month and a 3.3 percent gain for the 12-month period.