Lots of people are surely looking at today's jobs headlines somewhat puzzled, asking one significant question: How can it be that hiring was much worse than expected in March and the unemployment rate still fell — to 7.6 percent?
The answer isn't a happy one. There are a couple of ways the unemployment rate can fall.
I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Later in the program, we will speak with a Christian leader who's led his church to rethink both its politics and its worship. It's the Reverend Cecil Williams of San Francisco's Glide Memorial Church. He and his wife, who's also a church leader, will join us for a Faith Matters conversation in a few minutes.
The 11.7 million Americans searching for work got discouraging news Friday morning when the Labor Department said employers created only 88,000 jobs in March. The weak job growth comes at the same time benefits for the long-term unemployed are shrinking.
The smaller-than-expected increase in payrolls was a big disappointment, coming after a long stretch of much better results. Over the past year, employment growth has averaged 169,000 jobs a month.
But the nation's jobless rate still edged down to 7.6 percent from 7.7 percent. That dip wasn't for a good reason, though: Nearly half a million fewer people were participating in the labor force. That smaller pool meant the jobless rate could tick down even as job growth was weak.
From 'Morning Edition': Yuki Noguchi talks with David Greene
Update at 8:41 a.m. ET.: Job Growth Slows Sharply, But Unemployment Rate Dips
Although economists had been expecting to hear that the U.S. economy added 200,000 jobs in March, the news is out and the number is far less. Just 88,000 jobs were added to private and public payrolls, the Labor Department reports. The jobless rate still edged down to 7.6 percent — but only because nearly half a million fewer people were in the labor force.
Bitcoin is a virtual currency that's traded online. It's been on a wild ride lately, soaring in value during the Cyprus banking crisis. And this week, the price plummeted after a Bitcoin trading exchange was hacked.
Now former Enron CEO Jeffery Skilling could be released early from federal prison, as part of a reduced sentencing agreement under consideration at the Justice Department. Skilling was sentenced to 24 years in prison for his role in the collapse of the energy trading giant.
The Labor Department on Friday reported the nation's unemployment rate inched down to 7.6 percent in March, the lowest rate in four years, mainly due to more people stopping their search for work. In February, the job rate was 7.7 percent.
The computer maker's chairman Ray Lane has stepped down as executive chairman. He's been on thin ice with shareholders after his role in acquiring a business software company ended up hurting HP's bottom line.