The US unemployment rate fell to 8.1 percent in April, even as the number of new jobs slowed and more people quit looking for work, the Bureau of Labour Statistics said Friday.
The figures added to worries about a sluggish recovery as job growth remains stagnant and more people withdrew from the workforce ahead of November elections, in which President Barack Obama hopes to win another four-year term.
Obama welcomed the increase in private sector jobs and the downtick in unemployment Friday, but noted, "There are still a lot of folks out of work, which means that we've got to do more."
He called on Congress to follow through on his proposal to accelerate job growth.
"My message to Congress is going to be: Just saying 'no' to ideas that will create new jobs is not an option," he said in a speech to high school students on the need to keep interest rates low on student loans to pay for university. "There's too much at stake for us not to all be rowing in the same direction."
Republican rival Mitt Romney has taken Obama to task over the high unemployment rate, saying the president has not taken the right track to improve the economy.
"Clearly the American people are wondering why this recovery isn't happening faster, why it's taking years and years for the recovery to occur and we seem to be slowing down, not speeding up," Romney said. "This is not progress; this is very, very disappointing and a lot of American people are having very hard times and this is not good news this morning."
The unemployment figure was down slightly from March, when it stood at 8.2 per cent.
The economy added 115,000 jobs in April, the smallest gain in six months. The number of new jobs added fell far short of economists' estimates of an anticipated 160,000 jobs.
The government revised upward its figure for jobs gained in March to 154,000 from an earlier estimate of 120,000.
Jobs were added in professional and business services, retail and health care, while the number of positions in transportation and warehousing fell, the bureau said.
Unemployment has fallen steadily over the past several months after remaining near 9 per cent for much of last year, but worries about the number of long-term unemployed and those leaving the workforce altogether continue to cast a shadow over the economy.
University of Maryland economist Peter Morici noted that the added jobs were not enough to keep up with population growth and came as another 522,000 adults withdrew from the workforce.
"In the weakest recovery since the Great Depression more than four-fifths of the reduction in unemployment has been accomplished by a dropping adult labor force participation rate - essentially, persuading adults they don't need a job, or the job they could find is not worth having," he said.
The US central bank has indicated it expects unemployment to weigh heavily on economic growth for some time.
Most Popular Stories
- Aetna Leaving California's Individual Health Insurance Market
- Honda Says Sorry About the Lack of Electric Fits
- Calories Count: Starbucks to Post the Numbers on Menu Boards
- Comcast Takes a Stake in a YouTube Content Provider
- MillerCoors Taps New Hispanic Ad Agency
- OSH Selling Most of Its Stores to Lowe's
- What Will Happen When Quantitative Easing Ends?
- Is Stock Balloon Really a Pinata?
- Charitable Giving Sees Encouraging Growth
- First Person Cured of AIDS Virus Wants to Help Others