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US Jobless Rate Up to 8.9 Percent,  Highest in 26 Years

The U.S. Labor Department reports the unemployment rate in the United States rose last month to 8.9 percent. It was the highest rate since 1983, but the number of jobs lost was not as large as expected.

The commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Keith Hall, presented the Labor Department report to the Joint Economic Committee.

"This was another bad report. There was a significant deterioration in the labor market again. The job loss is large, it is widespread, it is affecting every industry sector and every demographic group," he said.

Some 539,000 jobs were lost in April, bringing the total number of unemployed to 13.7 million, up from 13.2 million in March.

But the number of job losses were the fewest in the past six months, tempered in part by the federal government's hiring of temporary workers to prepare for the U.S. census next year.

Commissioner Hall says the slowdown in layoffs could be, as he put it, "a glimmer of hope" that the economy could be improving.

"That looks like a moderation, but it's only one month," he cautioned.

Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat who chaired the hearing, said the Labor Department report underscores the need for continued government assistance.

"It is a testament to making sure unemployment compensation is available, making sure we are looking out for people who have lost their jobs," she said.

Republicans used the report to criticize the policies of the Democratic majority in Congress and the Obama administration.

Congressman Eric Cantor, a Virginia Republican, said in a statement that the Democrats continue to increase government intervention in the free market, taking away incentives to create jobs.