US payroll employment gains expanded at a faster pace in April, and the unemployment rate dropped to 4.4%, the lowest in a decade, media reports said.
According to data released by the Labour Department on Friday, the total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 211,000 in April, beyond market expectation of 185,000. The better-than-expected data followed a weaker reading in March, when payroll gains were only 79,000.
As more people got jobs, the unemployment rate fell to 4.4%, the lowest since May 2007. The low rate could help the Federal Reserve stay on track to gradually increase interest rates this year, Xinhua news agency reported.
The Labour Department revised the payroll gains in February from 219,000 up to 232,000, while the data for March was revised down to 79,000 from its previous estimate of 98,000. From February to April, the monthly job gains have averaged 174,000.
The labour force participation rate, which shows the share of working-age people in the labour force, edged down to 62.9% from March’s reading of 63 per cent.
In April, average hourly earnings rose 7 cents to $26.19, following a 5-cent increase in March. Over the year, average hourly earnings have risen by 2.5 %, slightly lower than the 2.7 percent growth in the previous month.
In its latest policy meeting, the Fed gave an optimistic assessment of the economy, saying the slower growth during the first quarter would likely be transitory.
Analysts hold that the Fed is keeping its options open for more rate hikes this year, maybe preparing for a move as soon as June. Fed officials have signalled that they expect two more rate hikes this year, in addition to the one increase they made in March.