Advertisement
News

Jobless rate dips slightly to 5.4% Modest report follows signs of 1st-quarter surge in economy

WASHINGTON — WASHINGTON -- A day after the government reported unexpectedly sharp growth in the economy in the first quarter, the Labor Department said yesterday that the job market during April was lackluster. But the signs of more modest growth failed to dissipate the fears of a rise in inflation that rattled the financial markets Thursday.

The nation's unemployment rate eased to 5.4 percent in April -- an improvement from 5.6 percent in March and the lowest level in 14 months -- despite a meager growth in payrolls of only 2,000 jobs.

Advertisement

The bond market was initially pleased with the job data, which were accompanied by a Commerce Department report of moderate increases in incomes and spending.

But bond prices subsequently skidded, pushing up interest rates, after investors found several things to worry about, including possible hints that wage pressures were beginning to mount. Stock prices gave up early gains, and blue chips sank in late trading.

Advertisement

Unlike the two preceding months, when job growth far exceeded expectations and frightened inflation-wary securities markets, the April results reduced chances that the Federal Reserve would find it necessary to tighten monetary policy soon.

Fears that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates -- perhaps as early as this month -- mounted Thursday, when the government reported that the economy grew at a 2.8 percent pace in the first three months of the year, about double most predictions.

The Clinton administration, quick to take credit for good economic performance, pointed to what is now 20 consecutive months with unemployment below 6 percent and to a rise in wages that it says is enough to help long-squeezed workers but not so much as to risk inflation. But it skirted over the lack of any significant increase of jobs last month.

"There's no sign of accelerating inflation in terms of wages pushing prices," Labor Secretary Robert Reich said in an interview. Mr. Reich also appeared at a White House briefing, joined by Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and by Martin N. Baily, a member of the President's Council of Economic Advisers, to trumpet economic gains.

For the Republicans, Sen. Connie Mack of Florida, chairman of the Joint Economic Committee, focused on the "disappointing" rise in April of 2,000 jobs, all of them in government, and on the fact that the two-tenths of a point decline in the unemployment rate was entirely the result of a contraction in the labor force.

The Republican National Committee finally joined the fray, contending that the economy yesterday was weaker than in 1992, when Mr. Clinton was attacking President George Bush for presiding over the "worst economic performance in 50 years."

The committee said that "the Bush economy Clinton so shrilly attacked grew 4.7 percent" in the first quarter of the election year, not a "sluggish" 2.8 percent.

In contrast to yesterday, more than five years into an economic expansion, the economy in 1992 was coming out of a recession and was plagued by unemployment that averaged 2 percentage points above last month's 5.4 percent rate.

Advertisement

The April job figures were particularly difficult to interpret, reflecting not just economic cross-currents but unusually big adjustments for recurrent seasonal variations, such as the surge each spring in construction jobs.

For example, yesterday's report showed that the construction industry actually added 221,000 jobs in April. But because such jobs normally surge in April, the gain fell short of what the adjustment factor anticipated, resulting in a reported decline of 53,000.

In some parts of the country, the department reported, hiring was held down because workers were already in jobs as a result of of unusually favorable winter weather. In others, poor April weather dampened activity and delayed hiring.

Overall, employer payrolls jumped 795,000.

State's jobless figures

Maryland's unemployment rate fell from 5.1 percent in February to 4.8 percent in March, the state said yesterday, as businesses started their regular, warm-weather hiring.

Advertisement

Adjusted for seasonal fluctuations, statewide unemployment held steady at 4.8 percent in both March and February.

Montgomery County had the lowest unemployment in the state, at 2.4 percent. Dorchester County had the highest, at 14.6 percent. In metropolitan Baltimore, unemployment fell from 5.5 percent in February to 5.2 percent in March.

Pub Date: 5/04/96

Maryland report

These are the latest unemployment statistics released by the Maryland Department of Economic and Employment Development.The figures are expressed as percentages:

............... Mar ... FebMar .. '95

Advertisement

Maryland ...... 4.8 ... 5.1 ..... 5.0

Balto area .... 5.2 ... 5.5 ..... 5.4

Balto City .... 7.4 ... 7.5 ..... 7.7

Arundel ..... 3.8 ... 4.2 ..... 4.0

Balto Coun .... 4.9 ... 5.2 ..... 5.2

Carroll ....... 4.6 ... 5.7 ..... 4.8

Advertisement

Harford ....... 5.8 ... 6.5 ..... 5.9

Howard ........ 2.7 ... 2.9 ..... 3.0

Qu Anne's ..... 5.8 ... 6.5 ..... 5.0

area ..... 3.3 ... 3.6 ..... 3.7

Calvert ....... 4.1 ... 4.5 ..... 3.7

Charles ....... 3.3 ... 3.6 ..... 3.7

Advertisement

Frederick ..... 3.6 ... 4.6 ..... 4.8

Mont. ......... 2.4 ... 2.7 ..... 2.8

P George's .... 4.1 ... 4.3 ..... 4.3

Md area ..... 7.7 ... 8.8 ..... 8.6

Allegany ...... 9.4 .. 10.2 .... 10.5

Garrett ...... 12.6 .. 13.4 .... 13.5

Advertisement

Washington .... 5.8 ... 7.2 ..... 6.6

MShore ........ 6.4 ... 6.5 ..... 5.3

Caroline ...... 7.8 ... 7.5 ..... 6.5

Talbot ........ 5.2 ... 5.7 ..... 4.2

LShore ........ 7.4 ... 8.0 ..... 7.2

Somerset ..... 12.1 .. 12.9 .... 13.0

Advertisement

Wicomico ...... 6.3 ... 6.9 ..... 5.8

Other area ... 10.1 .. 10.0 ..... 8.5

Cecil ........ 11.6 ... 9.8 ..... 7.8

Dorchester ... 14.6 .. 13.3 .... 12.3

Kent .......... 9.8 .. 11.0 ..... 6.5

St. Mary's .... 4.9 ... 5.4 ..... 4.8

Advertisement

Worcester .... 14.1 .. 16.7 .... 15.3


Advertisement