WASHINGTON, May 2 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. unemployment rate fell to a level that was getting significantly closer to the pre-crisis level, providing fresh evidence that the world's largest economy has emerged from the severe weather with fundamentals improving at a solid pace.
Unemployment rate fell by 0.4 percentage points to 6.3 percent in April, the lowest in five and a half years. The nonfarm payroll employment, or the number of newly-added jobs, increased by 288, 000, the highest in more than two years, the Labor Department reported Friday.
Market had expected about 210,000 news jobs to be created in April, and jobless rate to fall to 6.6 percent. In the past year, job growth had averaged 190,000 a month.
"Job gains were widespread, led by employment growth in professional and business services, retail trade, food services, drinking places and construction," the department said in a statement.
The number of newly-added jobs in February and March were also revised upward by 36,000.
The job data joined a string of upbeat statistics on consumer spending, manufacturing activity and inventory building shown in March, reinforcing the view that the U.S. economy has emerged from the bad weather that held back the growth at a scant 0.1 percent in the first quarter.
Analysts said the adverse effects of the bad weather would be short-lived. With the fundamentals improving consistently, the economic growth would regain momentum after the chilly weather ended.
While the jobless rate fell significantly, it was partly because fewer people are working or seeking for a job, the department said in the statement.
The labor participation rate, or the ratio between the employed and unemployed but seeking for jobs and the entire population, decreased 0.4 percentage point to 62.8 percent in April, the lowest reading since last December, a level as same as that of 1978.
The civilian labor force contracted in April, as the number of employed and unemployed but seeking for jobs dropped by 806,000, following a gain in March. "Labor force decline was due mostly to fewer people entering the labor force than unusual," the department said.
The number of long-term unemployed, or those jobless for 27 weeks or more, declined by 287,000 in April to 3.5 million. Those individuals accounted for 35.3 percent of the unemployed.
Average hourly earnings were unchanged at 24.31 U.S. dollars, indicating the faster pace of job growth failed to raise wages.
A broader measure of unemployment, which includes workers stuck in part-time jobs and those who gave up looking, declined to 12.3 percent in April from 12.7 percent.
Although the job picture is getting rosier, it is still below the five percent level before the recession took place. Federal Reserve estimated in its quarterly economic projection that the jobless rate would stay between 6.1-6.3 percent this year, and would decline between 5.2-5.6 percent in 2016, a range it took as reasonable in the longer run.
With improving outlook, the Fed has decided to keep reducing the money it is pumping into the recovery by trimming the monthly bond purchase by 10 billion U.S. dollars since May.
It concluded after the Federal Open Market Committee meeting Wednesday that the labor market indicators were mixed but on balance showed further improvement. Unemployment, however, remained elevated.