Report sparks optimism of end of recession
Employers shed 539,000 jobs in April, pushing the nation’s unemployment rate to 8.9 percent, but the pace of job losses slowed, leading some analysts to predict the recession will end in a few months.
A record 13.7 million Americans were out of work last month and 5.7 million jobs have been lost since the downturn began in December 2007, the Labor Department reported Friday.
The jobless rate was up from 8.5 percent in March and the highest since fall 1983. A year ago, unemployment was 5 percent.
Still, the smallest number of jobs losses in six months provided the latest in a series of signs the recession’s ferocity is easing.
“It’s a step in the right direction, but we still have a long way to go,” said Maury Harris, chief U.S. economist for UBS.
Recent reports have shown manufacturing and services industries shrinking more slowly. Also, consumer spending and confidence have ticked up and the housing market has shown signs of bottoming.
Analyst Richard Yamarone of Argus Research said he expects the recession to end by late summer but, like many economists, predicts unemployment will remain high through 2010.
Harris said enthusiasm over April’s decline in job losses was restrained by the fact that it was partly due to the addition of about 60,000 government workers for the 2010 census.
“We have to appreciate that they’re temporary (workers),” he said.
Still, the 539,000 job cuts were far less than March’s 699,000 and January’s peak of 741,000.
President Obama said Friday “the gears of our economic engine do seem to be slowly turning once again.”
He asked states and colleges to help jobless people pursue education and training without losing their unemployment benefits. States generally require people who collect unemployment to be actively looking for work, which can make it difficult to sign up for school or job training. Under Obama’s plan, going to school would satisfy the requirement that they were seeking new employment.
“We’re still in the midst of a recession that was years in the making and will be months or even years in the unmaking,” Obama said. But he added: “Step by step, we are making progress.”