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US employers add 223,000 jobs, rate falls to 5.4 percent

WASHINGTON — U.S. employers added 223,000 jobs in April, a solid gain that suggests the economy may be recovering after stumbling at the start of the year.

The Labor Department says the unemployment rate fell to 5.4 percent from 5.5 percent in March. That is the lowest level since May 2008, six months into the Great Recession.

Yet the report included signs of sluggishness: March’s already-tepid job gain was revised sharply lower, to just 85,000 from 126,000. In the past three months, employers have added 191,000 positions, a decent gain but down from last year’s average of 260,000.

Construction firms added jobs at a healthy pace, while oil and gas drillers laid off workers for the fourth straight month.

Average hourly wages in April rose just 2.2 percent from a year earlier.