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LATEST US DATA

US jobs grow from strength to strength with 263,000 gain

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The payroll gains were somewhat uneven, with construction, healthcare, and professional and business services posting gains while retail employment fell by 12,000 for a third- straight decline.

Washington, DC

US HIRING topped forecasts in April as the jobless rate dipped to a fresh 49-year low and wage gains were slightly cooler than projected, suggesting the still-healthy labour market can continue to support growth without fuelling inflation.

Payrolls climbed by 263,000 after a downwardly revised 189,000 advance the prior month, according to a Labor Department report on Friday that exceeded all estimates in a Bloomberg survey. The jobless rate unexpectedly fell to 3.6 per cent while average hourly earnings growth was unchanged at 3.2 per cent, below projections.

The solid reading follows calls from President Donald Trump and others for a Federal Reserve interest-rate cut to support the expansion. Policymakers reiterated their patient stance this week as Chairman Jerome Powell cited "very strong job creation'' while also noting weaker inflation.

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The surprising robustness follows months of broad labour market strength. While the expansion is poised to become the nation's longest on record at mid-year, economists expect a deceleration this year even after a strong first quarter.

Revisions for February and March added 16,000 more jobs than previously reported, while the three-month average fell to 169,000.

Friday's data follow a Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) statement on Wednesday saying "the labour market remains strong". Officials in March forecast a 3.7 per cent unemployment rate at year-end.

The payroll gains were somewhat uneven, with construction, healthcare, and professional and business services posting gains while retail employment fell by 12,000 for a third- straight decline.

Construction payrolls climbed by 33,000, the most since January, as manufacturing employment rose by 4,000.

Factory employment was unchanged. Average hourly earnings rose 0.2 per cent from the prior month after a revised 0.2 per cent rise in the prior period. Wages for production and non-supervisory workers accelerated to a 3.4 per cent annual pace, signalling gains for lower-paid employees.

While the historically tight labour market has pushed companies to raise pay, inflation appears largely subdued, as the fatter pay cheques don't show any sign of fuelling faster price gains.

At the same time, the average workweek got slightly shorter, boosting average hourly pay. The average for all private employees decreased to 34.4 hours, from 34.5 hours. The U-6, or underemployment rate, held at 7.3 per cent; the gauge includes part-time workers who'd prefer a full-time position and people who want a job but aren't actively looking.

The participation rate, or share of working-age people in the labour force, decreased to 62.8 per cent from 63 per cent.

Private employment rose by 236,000 after increasing 179,000; government payrolls climbed by 27,000. BLOOMBERG