April Job Growth Below Forecasts; Unemployment Edges Up

The U.S. economy added a weaker-than-expected 88,000 jobs in April, the slimmest gain in
more than two years, as employment fell in retail and manufacturing, and unemployment edged up, a Labor Department showed on Friday.

The employment report, which included an expected gain in the unemployment rate to 4.5% from 4.4% in March, showed the job market has decelerated as expected following sluggish growth in the first three months of 2007.

The median forecast of Wall Street analysts put jobs up 100,000 last month.

Adding to the picture of a slightly less robust jobs market, the government revised down its estimate for jobs created in March by 3,000 and in February by 23,000.

Significant job losses in April came in general merchandise stores, where employment dropped by 41,000, and credit intermediation, where jobs fell by 14,000.

Manufacturing employment fell 19,000 in the month, the 10th straight decline.

Meanwhile construction employment fell 11,000 after a gain of 50,000 in March. In 2007 there has been almost no net change in construction employment, the Labor Department said.

The mild jobs report could give some comfort to the Federal Reserve, which has worried that a tight labor market could cause inflationary pressures.