The US unemployment rate rose to 8.9 percent in April with 539,000 jobs lost, government data showed Friday, in a report not as bad as feared by private analysts for the recession-stricken economy.
The jobless rate hit its highest level since September 1983 but the pace of job losses slowed appreciably, offering another possible sign of an easing of the severe economic slump.
The unemployment rate was in line with forecasts but the number of job losses not nearly as bad as the consensus Wall Street estimate of 600,000 in the Labor Department monthly report, one of the best indicators of economic momentum.
The agency revised its estimates to show steeper job losses in February and March.
The losses for nonfarm employment for February were revised from 651,000 to 681,000, and for March from 663,000 to 699,000.
In April, the private sector lost 611,000 jobs but the overall picture was helped by a gain of 72,000 government posts.
The goods-producing sector shed 270,000 jobs including 149,000 in manufacturing and 110,000 in construction. Employment in the services sectors fell by 269,000.
Although the pace of job losses moderated, the report shows an economy struggling to regain traction. The agency said that since the recession began in December 2007, 5.7 million jobs have been lost. The number of unemployed persons rose to 13.7 million in April, up by six million over the past 12 months.
The number of long-term unemployed -- without jobs for 27 weeks or more -- increased by 498,000 to 3.7 million over the month and has risen by 2.4 million since the start of the recession, the repoort showed.
On the positive side, the labor force participation rate rose to 65.8 percent as 683,000 joined the labor force, a sign that more people are looking for employment instead of dropping their job search.