Washington Report: Updates From the Capitol

Jobless rate at 16.5 % for African Americans; Fattah jockeys for chairmanship

April Jobs Numbers Mixed But Show Improvement

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released the April jobs report today and the news, according to President Barack Obama, is both encouraging and contradictory. While payrolls increased by 290,000 jobs last month, the overall unemployment rate rose from 9.7% to 9.9%. The jobless rate for African Americans held steady at 16.5%.

“Given the strength of these job numbers, this may seem contradictory, but this increase is largely a reflection of the fact that workers who had dropped out of the workforce entirely are now seeing jobs again and–are now seeking jobs again, encouraged by better prospects,” Obama explained during a brief press conference.

The president noted that productivity and the number of hours that people are working are up and the manufacturing sector saw in April its biggest increase in employment since 1998, thanks to tax incentives, health care reform and other “difficult and at times unpopular steps” the administration has taken. But, he also warned, there is still a lot of work yet to be done.

“The economy is beginning to grow,” said Dr. Thomas Boston, a Georgia Tech economics professor who sits on the BE Board of Economists. “We need about 250,000 every month to absorb new workers and reduce the unemployment rate and we exceeded that. … The economy over the last quarter grew at 3.5%, which exceeded predictions. So things are improving–and more rapidly than most economists have been predicting.”

Obama pledged that he and his economic team would not rest until everyone is able to find a good job and “we’ve put this difficult chapter behind us.”

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-California), chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus cheered the jobs report, saying that the announcement that the economy produced 290,000 jobs in April “is a strong indicator the economy is improving.”

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