WASHINGTON (USA Today) -- Employers added a better-than-expected 165,000 jobs in April,, easing concerns that payroll growth may be slipping into a sustained mid-year slump.
The unemployment rate fell to 7.5% from 7.6%, the Labor Department said Friday.
Economists had forecast that the economy added 148,000 jobs last month.
Several economic reports this week appeared to solidify the view that the economy and job market are mired in a fourth straight spring slump. A survey by payroll processor ADP estimated businesses added just 119,000 jobs last month. Manufacturing activity in April barely grew, while construction spending fell.
Economists have largely blamed the weakening on across-the-board federal spending cuts, a recent payroll tax increase and small business hesitancy to hire because of coming health care insurance requirements.
Yet the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits for the first time fell last week by 18,000 to 324,000, Labor said Thursday. That bolstered some economists' view that the recent downturn was due to a cold March and April and job growth could soon rebound.