UNEMPLOYMENT rate rises to 4.5 percent

Friday, May 4th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The nation's unemployment rate shot up to 4.5 percent in April, the highest level in 2 1/2 years. Businesses slashed their payrolls by the largest amount since the last recession in 1991.

The Labor Department report Friday was the freshest evidence that the economy _ which started to slow in the second half of last year _ continues to weaken.

The increase of 0.2 percentage point in the unemployment rate marked the second straight month the jobless rate had gone up. In March, the jobless rate ticked up a notch to 4.3 percent. April's rate was the highest since October 1998, when unemployment also stood at 4.5 percent.

Both the increase in the unemployment rate and the cut in jobs surprised many analysts. They were predicting that the unemployment rate would rise to 4.4 percent and that businesses actually would add jobs during the month.

Businesses cut their payrolls in April by 223,000 jobs, the largest reduction since February 1991, when payrolls fell by 259,000. It was the second month in a row that businesses trimmed their payrolls. In March, payrolls fell by 53,000, according to revised figures, a smaller reduction than the government previously reported.

In April, job losses were widespread except in retail and government, which added to their payrolls