April Produces Encouraging Jobs Report

The U.S. economy added 223,000 new jobs in April, a return to solid growth likely to ease fears of a significant spring slowdown. The jobless rate dropped to 5.4 percent, the lowest level since May 2008, setting the stage for the Federal Reserve to begin raising interest rates later this year or early in 2016. The much improved jobs report follows a weak employment reading in March and comes after a number of other indicators suggested that economic growth probably stalled out in the first quarter of the year. The report was not all positive, however. Average hourly earnings rose by just 3 cents to $24.87. Over the last year, earnings are up by just 2.2 percent. And the labor force participation rate rose only slightly to 62.8 percent and remains near 30-year lows.