U.S. jobless rate retreats to nearly 50-year low

The unemployment rate has dropped to its lowest level in the United States in nearly 50 years as payrolls keep growing.

The jobless rate decreased two-tenths of a point to 3.6 percent and nonfarm payrolls increased 263,000 in April, according to the latest estimates from the Department of Labor. The unemployment rate now stands at its lowest level since December 1969.

The initial estimate for payroll gains in March was revised down 7,000 to 189,000. But the estimate for February was revised up 23,000 to 56,000.

Given the latest numbers, payrolls have increased an average of 169,000 a month over the past three months and 213,000 a month over the past year.

Still, 5.8 million people were counted among those unsuccessfully looking for work in April. Of those, 1.2 million have been out of work 27 weeks or more.

Another 4.7 million people were counted among those working part-time because their hours have been cut they’ve been unable to find full-time positions.

The labor force participation rate fell two-tenths of a point to 62.8 percent.

Payroll gains in April were spread out among a number of industry sectors.

Professional and business services added 76,000 jobs — 53,000 of those in administrative and support services. Employment rose 33,000 in construction, 27,000 in health care and 26,000 in social assistance. Payrolls increased 12,000 in financial activities and 4,000 in manufacturing. Employment dropped 12,000 in retail trades.

The average workweek for employees on private, nonfarm payrolls slipped a tenth of an hour to 34.4 hours. The average manufacturing workweek held steady at 40.7 hours.

Average hourly earnings rose 6 cents to $27.77. Over the past year, hourly earnings have increased 3.2 percent.