- The Washington Times - Friday, May 8, 2015

Warmer weather helped bring the labor market back to life after a winter slumber, with 223,000 jobs added in April to contribute to lowering the U.S. unemployment rate from 5.5 percent to 5.4 percent.

The upbeat report Friday from the Labor Department showed the unemployment rate at its lowest since May 2008, six months into the Great Recession.

For once, job growth matched economists expectations.

The surge of hiring signaled that companies were confident enough in their outlook last month to fill positions. The job growth, if sustained, could fuel an economic rebound after a January-March quarter in which the U.S. economy is thought to have shrunk.

It wasn’t all blue skies and sunshine. The Labor Department revised downward its March report to 85,000 new jobs from 126,000. Job gains in manufacturing were a meager 1,000, while the energy sector shaded 3,000 jobs.

And the job growth isn’t raising worker pay much. Average hourly wages rose just 3 cents in April to $24.87. Wages have risen 2.2 percent over the past 12 months, roughly the same sluggish pace of the past six years.

The White House seized on the good news and used it to promote President Obama’s agenda, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal that is in jeopardy in Congress.

“This report largely reflects the ongoing recovery, but jobs in April were likely also boosted by a temporary bounce-back from winter weather. Notwithstanding the substantial progress our economy has made, it is critical to continue the overall momentum and further strengthen wage growth,” said Jason Furman, chairman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers.

“That is why the president is pursuing policies including opening new markets for U.S. goods and services through expanded trade, increasing investments in infrastructure, providing relief from the sequester and raising the minimum wage.”

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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