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Unemployment rate reaches 25-year high


The nation’s unemployment rate reached 8.9 percent in April, the highest level since September 1983, with 539,000 losing their jobs. The number of job losses was lower than economists had predicted and was bolstered somewhat by the addition of 66,000 federal government jobs.

In all, 5.7 million people have been put out of work since the recession began in December 2007, the U.S. Department of Labor said today. The number of people who are officially unemployed stands at 13.7 million.

The Labor Department also revised its estimates to show steeper job losses in months leading into April — 681,000 non-farm jobs lost in February, up from an earlier estimate of 651,000, and 699,000 fewer jobs in March, compared with the initial estimate of 663,000.

To be counted as unemployed in the jobs report, a person must not be working currently and must have looked for work in the past four weeks.

An alternative measure of unemployment includes people who have become discouraged and stopped looking for work and people who are working fewer hours than they would like for economic reasons. If those groups are included, the unemployment rate in April was 15.8 percent, up slightly from 15.6 percent in March.

In all, the measure of the long-term unemployed increased by 498,000 to 3.7 million, representing 27.2 percent of all unemployed people in April, the highest proportion on record, the Labor Department said.

It is becoming more difficult to find jobs. The Labor Department report showed that people spend 12.5 weeks looking for work, up from 11.2 weeks in March.

In the private sector, job losses were widespread, with the exception of the health care industry, which added 17,000 jobs, matching that sector’s monthly average, the Labor Department said.

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