The Labor Department tally wasn’t nearly as bad as the
620,000 job cuts that many economists were expecting, and was helped by a burst
of government hiring, the Associated Press reported. The rise in the
unemployment rate from 8.5 percent in March matched economists’ forecasts.
Stocks soared in early trading as the past day’s relatively positive news hit Wall
Street: job losses slowed and big banks don’t need as much capital as feared.
The jobs report added to investors’ upbeat mood following the results of the
government’s stress tests of banks. That report on Thursday said 10 of the 19
largest U.S. banks will need to raise about $75 billion in new capital as a
buffer against losses if the economy worsens.
The total number of unemployed now stands at 13.7 million,
up from 13.2 million in March, and many economists predict the unemployment
rate will hit 10 percent by the end of this year.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke stopped short of that
figure earlier this week, however, saying it will be somewhere in the 9 percent
range. Regardless, both private economists and Bernanke agree the unemployment
rate will keep climbing into next year.
The Fed says unemployment will remain elevated into 2011,
and many economists say the job market may not get back to normal — a 5
percent unemployment rate — until 2013.
Hours after the release of the report, President Barack
Obama addressed ways his administration planned to help those unemployed,
outlining steps to help the jobless pursue education and training, and keep
their unemployment benefits.
Currently, unemployed people who want to go back to school
must give up their monthly unemployment check. If they decide to return to
school, some often don’t qualify for federal grants because eligibility is
based upon the previous year’s income.
“Our unemployment insurance system should no longer be
a safety net, but a steppingstone to a new future,” President Obama said
in remarks prepared for delivery Friday, according to the AP. “It should
offer folks educational opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have” and
give them skills they need to “get ahead when the economy comes
Job losses in February and March turned out to be deeper,
according to revised figures. Employers cut 681,000 positions in February,
30,000 more than previously reported; in March 699,000 jobs were cut, more than
the 663,000 first reported.
In the first half hour of trading Friday, the Dow Jones industrial
average climbed 113.50, or 1.4 percent, to 8,523.35. The Standard & Poor’s
500 index rose 13.21, or 1.5 percent, to 920.60, and the Nasdaq composite index
rose 16.30, or 1.0 percent, to 1,732.54.