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223,000 Jobs Added In April; Unemployment Rate Dips To 5.4 Percent

Scott Fast, of Cradle to Career Colorado, talks with Englewood High School students Nick Spence (left) and Russell Windholz during a job readiness seminar hosted by The United Way and America's Promise Alliance in Denver on Thursday.

Updated at 9:55 a.m. ET

The U.S. economy added 223,000 jobs in April, hewing close to expectations from economists, but the numbers fell short of a threshold that forecasters believe would signal an early rise in interest rates.

The unemployment rate dipped to 5.4 percent, according to data released by the U.S. Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics.

It is a moderately strong showing following March's weak report of 126,000 new jobs, but the jobs figures for that month were revised downward to just 85,000. February's numbers were revised slightly up from 264,000 to 266,000.

However, strong growth in construction, which added 45,000 jobs after, and in the leisure and hospitality sector tend to reinforce the theory that March's poor showing was at least partly weather-related.

Jason Furman, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, said in a statement: "Our businesses and the economy as a whole created more than 200,000 jobs in thirteen of the past fourteen months—the first time that has happened since 1995. After taking into account the downward revision for the March jobs number, our economy has added 3.0 million new jobs over the past twelve months, nearly the fastest pace in more than a decade."

The labor force participation rate was largely unchanged at 62.8 percent. The average workweek on private non-farm payrolls remained at 34.5 hours in April.

The results were roughly in line with forecasts of 222,000 to 228,000 new jobs. As MarketWatch suggested ahead of the Labor Department's release, "anything less than a 200,000 increase in April would be viewed as another letdown."

The New York Times added: "A strong number — a jump in payrolls by more than 300,000, for example — could rekindle speculation about when the Federal Reserve will take its long-awaited first step in raising short-term interest rates, which have been near zero since the onset of the financial crisis in late 2008."

The Associated Press says home sales staged a big rebound in March and restaurants, retailers and banks grew at a faster pace in April than in the previous month, according to the Institute for Supply Management.

Other sectors that grew at a healthy clip in April include professional and business services (+62,000) and health care (+45,000).

Mining and oil and gas construction both lost jobs.

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