After spending six months at exactly 4.1 percent, the unemployment rate dropped to 3.9 percent in April, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this morning. That's the lowest the unemployment rate has been since December 2000. The economy added 164,000 jobs for the month.
The headline figure fell despite the fact that the number of new jobs added was slightly lower than we've been used to. April's figure compared with an average monthly gain of 191,000 over the prior 12 months. Job gains have averaged 208,000 over the last three months.
The biggest driver of job gains last month was professional and business services, which added 54,000 positions. Over the past 12 months, the industry has added 518,000 jobs. Employment in manufacturing increased by 24,000 in April; manufacturing employment has risen by 245,000 over the year, with about three-fourths of the growth in durable goods industries.