Rebounding from a dismal start to the year, the U.S. economy added 223,000 jobs in April, a solid gain that suggested that employers are helping fuel a durable if still subpar recovery.
The job growth helped lower the unemployment rate to 5.4 percent from 5.5 percent in March, the Labor Department said Friday. That is the lowest rate since May 2008, six months into the Great Recession.
The figures provided some reassurance that the economy is recovering from a harsh winter and other temporary headwinds that may have caused it to shrink in the first three months of the year. Yet the bounce back appears to be falling short of hopes that growth would finally accelerate in 2015 and top 3 percent for the first time in a decade.
Most analysts foresee growth of about 2.5 percent this year, similar to the modest expansion typical of much of the 6-year-old recovery.
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March’s job gain was revised sharply lower, to 85,000 from 126,000. In the past three months, employers have added 191,000 positions, a decent total but well below last year’s average of 260,000.
“Job growth is going from great to good,” Michael Feroli, an economist at JPMorgan Chase, said.
One reason the economy hasn’t accelerated faster is that overseas economic turmoil is still holding back U.S. growth. A stronger dollar, which has made U.S. goods more expensive overseas, has cut into U.S. factory production. Manufacturers barely added jobs for a second straight month. And last year’s plunge in oil prices has caused drilling firms to lay off thousands of workers.