The pace of layoffs slowed in April when US employers cut 539,000 jobs, the fewest in 6 months; economists had expected 620,000 job cuts. But the unemployment rate climbed to 8.9%, the highest since late 1983, as many businesses remain wary of hiring in a climate of economic uncertainty. However, the slowdown in layoffs may bolster expectations that the worst of the downturn's hefty job losses are past.
"There are glimmers of hope. We are moving in the right direction in terms of layoffs. They are measurably less bad than what we've been through," said an economist. If laid-off workers who have given up looking for new jobs or have settled for part-time work are included, the unemployment rate would have been 15.8% in April, the highest on records dating to 1994.