Economists forecast slow but steady US hiring

WASHINGTON (AP) - Economists are predicting bigger job gains than in March but no change in the unemployment rate when the government reports April employment data today.

Economists surveyed by The Associated Press predict employers added 163,000 jobs in April, compared to 120,000 jobs created in a disappointing March. But the unemployment rate is expected to remain at 8.2 percent - a three-year low.

The economy created an average of 246,000 jobs a month from December through February. The hiring slowdown in March sparked fears that job growth was weakening.

Some economists have said that a mild winter led some companies to accelerate hiring. For many, April's report will serve as more of a bellwether.

The jobless rate has fallen from 9.1 percent in August to 8.2 percent in March. Part of the reason for the rapid decline is that some people have given up looking for work.

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