JOBLESS RATE HIGHERFactory layoffs helped push up unemployment in April to 5.4 percent, its highest level since January 1989, while the pace of new job growth slowed, the Labor Department said Friday.

The manufacturing sector lost 22,000 jobs, on top of a 31,000 drop in March. Overall, payrolls outside the farm sector grew by a scant 64,000 in April, despite the hiring of 79,000 temporary census workers, the department said.

Wall Street economists were expecting the jobless rate to remain unchanged from its 5.2 percent March rate, and non-farm payrolls to grow by 383,000.

But most economists said the figures, the first glimmer of economic activity in April, do not paint as dismal an outlook for the U.S. economy as might first appear.

Cautious hiring after a sluggish fourth quarter accounts for the slow job growth, economists said. Today's slimmed-down work force allows for badly needed productivity gains as demand begins to recover, relieving pressure on inflation, according to experts.


UP 24,000 FOR WEEK

WASHINGTON - New claims for state unemployment insurance benefits were made by 372,000 people during the week ended April 21, up 24,000 on a seasonally adjusted basis from the previous week, the U.S. Labor Department said Thursday.

Initial claims were down 23,000 in the week ended April 14 to a seasonally adjusted 348,000, Labor said.

In the week ended April 14, 2.474 million people were reported claiming unemployment benefits under regular state programs, up 172,000 from the previous week's 2.302 million, Labor said.

The rate of insured unemployment during the week ended April 14 stood at 2.4 percent, up from 2.2 percent the previous week.

New claims during the four weeks ended April 21 averaged 357,250 per week, up from 349,750 for the four weeks ended April 14.