U.S. payrolls keep growing, but at a slowing pace

According to the latest Labor Department Estimates, nonfarm payrolls increased 115,000 in April. The jobless rate edged down a tenth to 8.1 percent — a three-year low, but a decline that reflected a decrease in the labor pool as discouraged job hunters gave up on their searches.

The size of U.S. payroll gains have decreased three consecutive months, although initial estimates for March and February were revised upward 53,000 to a total of 413,000.

Between December and February, nonfarm payrolls rose an average of 252,000 a month.

The number of people counted among those unsuccessfully looking for work in April dropped to 12.5 million, while the number of the long-term unemployed who’ve been out of work for 27 weeks or longer fell to 5.1 million.

The labor force participation rate, the ratio of employment to population, fell to 63.6 percent. For April, private-sector payrolls rose 130,000 with gains in several industry sectors offsetting losses in other sectors.

Professional and business services added a net 62,000 jobs, about a third of those in temporary services. Staffing increased at architectural and engineering services firms as well as at computer systems design firms.

Retail trade employment rose 29,000 with increased staffing at general merchandise stores and building material and garden supply stores.

Within the leisure and hospitality sector, food services and drinking places added 20,000 jobs, bringing total payroll gains since February 2010 to 576,000. Health care payrolls rose 19,000.

Manufacturing employment continued to trend up with 16,000 new jobs and gains at factories making fabricated metal products and machinery. Since January 2010, manufacturers have added 489,000 jobs.

The transportation and warehousing sector shed 17,000 jobs in April with layoffs in transit and ground transportation, couriers and messengers.

Construction payrolls fell 2,000, although the unemployment rate for the sector fell to 14.5 percent. Employment in other industry sectors, including mining and logging, was little changed.

Local government payrolls fell 12,000, mostly in education.

The average workweek for employees on private, nonfarm payrolls remained unchanged at 34.5 hours, while the average workweek for manufacturers edged up a tenth of an hour to 40.8 hours.

Average hourly earnings for employees on private, nonfarm payrolls rose 1 cent to $23.28. Over the past year, average hourly earnings have increased 1.8 percent.