WASHINGTON – PRESIDENT Barack Obama on Friday said Americans were flooding back into the job market as the economy slowly improved after a barn-busting report showed 290,000 jobs were created in April.
Mr Obama hailed the Labor Department figures as a ‘very encouraging’ sign that the US economy is emerging from the doldrums of a recession that destroyed more than eight million jobs. Even though the new jobs figures beat all estimates, the number of Americans returning to the labour market pushed the unemployment rate up to 9.9 per cent, from 9.7 per cent in March.
At least 805,000 Americans entered the market in April. Employers – still shell-shocked from the worst recession in a generation – could not create enough jobs to keep pace. Mr Obama said Americans were returning to the labour market because they were ‘encouraged by better prospects’. ‘The economy has been growing for the better part of a year,’ he said claiming his administration’s policies had helped fuel the recovery.
But the sheer length of the recession may be pushing people back to work, according to Peter Morici, a University of Maryland business professor. ‘Unemployment benefits are running out for some workers, pushing families harder into the jobs market,’ he said.
The number of re-entrants to the labour force rose by 195,000, the Labor Department said. With congressional elections later this year, Mr Obama faces the mammoth political and economic task of putting Americans back to work. Polls show around 80 per cent of Americans say unemployment will be important for how they vote in the November elections.
In a sign of the scale of Mr Obama’s challenge, Friday’s report showed 6.7 million people had been unemployed for more than 27 weeks, accounting for almost half of those out of work. — AFP