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Jobless rate falls to 7-year low

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The U.S. economy added 223,000 jobs in April, bringing the jobless rate to a seven-year low after slow growth in the first three months of 2015.

The strong figures bolster hopes that the economic recovery is not ending, and come as the White House is pushing Democrats to support President Obama’s trade agenda.

The unemployment rate fell one-tenth of a point to 5.4 percent last month, the lowest since May 2008, even as March’s already dismal numbers were revised down by 41,000 jobs, a sign that the economy might have contracted in the first quarter after an anemic 0.2 percent gain in the first estimate.

February’s numbers were revised up to 266,000, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday.

“This is what a recovery looks like,” said economist Justin Wolfers on Twitter. “Employment keeps growing. Unemployment keeps falling. And we ignore occasional hiccups in the data.”

Obama on Friday will ramp up his argument for fast-track trade authority at the Portland, Ore., headquarters of Nike, saying the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) would create more jobs in the United States.

“One of the things that we need to do to put people back to work is make sure that we are accessing the markets of the future,” Obama said at a Democratic fundraiser Thursday night in Portland.

Nike, which backs the trade deal, said with the passage of trade promotion authority and TPP it plans to create 10,000 new U.S. manufacturing and engineering jobs under the massive agreement between Pacific Rim countries.

Candidates running for the White House in 2016 are also keeping a close eye on the economy.

While the general election remains 18 months away, a strong or stable economy under Obama would boost Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton’s chances of succeeding him. It could also factor into Clinton’s decision on how much she should run on Obama’s record.

The average pace of jobs growth was a steady 191,000 over the past three months, even with the blip in the March data.

Construction added 45,000 jobs in April; the sector has added 280,000 jobs over the past year.

But manufacturing added only 1,000 jobs last month as the West Coast ports strike and strong dollar weighed on the sector.

Wages, which are being watched carefully, rose 3 cents last month and are up 2.2 percent in the past year.

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