Unemployment Rises, but Job Cuts Ease

By Toni Vranjes

May 8, 2009

The tidal wave of layoffs sweeping through the United States may have crested, but it’s still inflicting damage.

The unemployment rate jumped to 8.9 percent in April, as employers shed 539,000 jobs, the Labor Department reported today. It was the lowest number of job cuts in six months.

“While it’s somewhat encouraging that this number is lower than it’s been in each of the past six months, it’s still a sobering toll,” President Barack Obama said in a speech today.

Obama also announced new plans to help the unemployed cope with the grim realities of the labor market. The proposals would increase access to education and training programs.

In the unemployment report, the Labor Department said that losses were spread across almost every industry in the private sector. One area of growth was healthcare, which added 17,000 jobs. Meanwhile, the federal government created 66,000 jobs, driven primarily by the hiring of temporary workers for the 2010 Census.

Since the beginning of the recession in December 2007, the country has lost 5.7 million jobs. The unemployment rate has reached the highest level in 25 years.

“We’ll continue to face a tough job market into 2010,” says¬†Peter Morici, a business professor at the¬†University of Maryland.

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