Washington, May 4 : The US unemployment rate fell slightly to 8.1 percent in April despite fewer job gains, the Labor Department said Friday.

The reading was generally in line with market expectations, marking the lowest level since January 2009. The unemployment rate has fallen a full percentage point since last August, Xinhua reported.

However, employers pulled back on hiring for the second straight month. Total non-farm payrolls rose by 115,000 jobs in April, less than the revised 154,000 job gain in March and the average level of 252,000 registered from December to February.

The private sector added 130,000 jobs while governments of all levels slashed 15,000 posts in the month, Labor Department figures showed.

Employment rose in manufacturing sector by 16,000 while private service-providing sector added 116,000 jobs during the month.

The number of unemployed Americans was little changed at 12.5 million. And the number of long-term unemployed, people who have been jobless for more than 6 months, stood at 5.1 million, accounting for 41.3 percent of the total unemployed.

Average hourly earnings for all employees rose by 1 cent to $23.38. It has increased 1.8 percent over the past year.

The labor force participation rate declined in April to 63.6 percent, indicating more people gave up looking for jobs. The decline in the unemployment rate was not due to job growth, but that more people left the labor force.

The decelerated payroll increase was a reminder of the bumpy economic recovery. The overall economy grew by 2.2 percent annual rate in the January-March quarter, down from 3 percent growth in the fourth quarter last year.

Federal Reserve officials said in an April 25 statement that labor market conditions had improved in recent months and that the unemployment rate declined but remained elevated.


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