Economists say the jobs picture might not be as bad as it sounds, despite today's news that the number of people applying for unemployment benefits is stuck near a three-month high.
The Labor Department says applications for unemployment aid dipped by about 1,000 last week, less than economists expected. And the four-week average, a less volatile figure, rose to the highest in three months.
One economist says the figures "aren't bad; they're just not as good as they have been."
Applications jumped sharply three weeks ago, suggesting employers had stepped up layoffs and added fewer jobs. Economists said the increase might have been inflated by temporary layoffs during the spring holidays, when many school employees are laid off. But applications haven't fallen back since then.
Some analysts say the quirky weather might be partly to blame. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke says a warm winter may have made January and February artificially strong and March artificially weak.
Most analysts think employers will add about 175,000 jobs this month. That would be more than in March but less than the robust job growth achieved during the winter.