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Just 115,000 Jobs Added Last Month, Jobless Rate Dipped To 8.1 Percent

The nation's jobless rate edged down to 8.1 percent in April from 8.2 percent in March, but just 115,000 jobs were added to private and public payrolls, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports.

The job growth was well below expectations and has raised new questions about the strength of the U.S. economy.

We'll add more to this post as we read through the report and gather reactions and analysis. So be sure to hit your "refresh" button to get our latest updates.

Update at 9:55 a.m. ET. White House Says "Economy Is Continuing To Heal":

"Today's employment report provides further evidence that the economy is continuing to heal from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, but much more remains to be done to repair the damage caused by the financial crisis and the deep recession," writes Alan Kreuger, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, on the White House blog.

Update at 9:10 a.m. ET. Early Analyses:

-- "U.S. job growth slowed again in April, a fresh sign that the economy could be settling into a sluggish spring." (The Wall Street Journal)

-- The payroll figure is "a disappointing number that will add to fears that the economic recovery has lost some momentum." (The Financial Times)

-- "Employers in the U.S. added fewer workers than forecast in April and the jobless rate unexpectedly declined as people left the labor force, underscoring concern the world's largest economy may be losing speed." (Bloomberg News)

Update at 8:55 a.m. ET. Obama's Policies "Aren't Working," Boehner Says:

"Today's report is more evidence President Obama's policies aren't working for families and small businesses, and aren't creating enough jobs to get our economy back on track," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, says in a statement posted by his office. "Where are the jobs?"

Update at 8:50 a.m. ET. Why Did The Jobless Rate Drop?

The economy needs to add more than 115,000 jobs a month to bring down the unemployment rate, economists will tell you. So why did the rate decline in April?

Mostly because the size of the "civilian labor force" shrank by 342,000 people, to 154.4 million. And the labor force "participation rate" edged down to 63.6 percent from 63.8 percent.

So, fewer people were counted as being part of the labor force and a modest about of new jobs were added to payrolls. Those two things combined to shave a tenth of a percentage point off the jobless rate.

And what's behind the decline in the size of the labor force? This was critical: The number of "discouraged workers" — those who have given up even trying to find work because they don't think there are jobs to be had — jumped by 103,000, to 968,000 people.

Update at 8:41 a.m. ET. March Job Growth Revised Upward:

Previously, BLS had estimated there were about 120,000 jobs added to public and private payrolls in March. Today, it revised that figure upward — to 154,000.

Update at 8:40 a.m. ET. Job Growth Much Less Than Expected:

Before the report's release, the consensus forecast among economists was that payrolls likely grew by about 160,000 positions in April, Bloomberg News reports.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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