U.S. jobless rate slips below 4 percent

The U.S. unemployment rate has slipped below 4 percent for the first time since 2000 even as payrolls continue to grow.

The jobless rate retreated two-tenths of a point to 3.9 percent in April as nonfarm payrolls increased 164,000, according to the latest Labor Department estimates.

The decline in the unemployment rate ended a six-month streak in which the rate remained unchanged at 4.1 percent. The jobless rate fell to 3.8 percent in April 2000. The last time it was lower than that was 1969.

Payrolls have increased 91 consecutive months. What was initially estimated as gain of 103,000 jobs in March was revised upward to 135,000. A gain of 326,000 jobs in February was revised downward to 324,000. Given the latest numbers, nonfarm payrolls have increased an average of 208,000 a month over the past three months.

Still, 6.3 million people were counted among those unsuccessfully looking for work in April. Of those, 1.3 million have been out of work 27 weeks or longer. Another 5 million were counted among those working part-time because their hours have been cut or they’re unable to find full-time positions. The labor force participation rate edged down a tenth of a point to 62.8 percent.

Job gains for April were divided among four industry sectors. Business and professional services added 54,000 jobs, while payrolls increased 24,000 each in manufacturing and health care and 8,000 in mining.

The average workweek for employees on private, nonfarm payrolls held steady at 34.5 hours. The average manufacturing workweek lengthened two-tenths of an hour to 41.1 hours.

Average hourly earnings for employees on private, nonfarm payrolls increased 4 cents to $26.84. Earnings have increased 67 cents, or 2.6 percent, over the past year.