But while job growth rebounded from a disappointing March figure that was revised up Friday to 135,000, other aspects of the closely watched monthly report were lackluster.
"The moderation in job gains over the past two months may mark the beginning of the slow deceleration to a sustainable pace of job gains, which we estimate to be around or a little below 100,000 per month", said Michael Feroli, an economist at JPMorgan in NY.
"Getting down to 3.9 is quite a marker", said Robert Frick, chief economist with Navy Federal Credit Union. That's the 91st consecutive month of jobs gains - a streak never seen before. Only the 1990s expansion was longer. The concept suggests that at 5%, everyone in an economy that wants a job, has a job. However, wage growth was weaker than expected.
"It's a Groundhog Day kind of employment report", said Michael Gapen, chief US economist at Barclays PLC, referring to the film where actor Bill Murray's character must relive the same day over and over.
Employers nationwide report the pool of available workers is drying up, forcing many to raise wages to attract qualified candidates, which raises concerns about inflation.
"People are creatures of habit", Ms. Barrera said. "I think we can get down to 3.5%".
The overall unemployment rate is now the lowest since December 2000. "It would have been 2.9 per cent if not for the hangover from Q4 storm-related spending on autos and home fix", said Chris Low, chief economist at FTN Financial, in a note. For prime-age workers, or people in the age group of 25 to 54, it dipped to 82 percent from 82.1 percent, led by a drop among women. They grew 2.6% from a year earlier, slightly below economists' expectations. That, together with a shortage of skilled workers, should put upward pressure on wages in the months ahead, economists say.
President Trump's policies have extended what is now the 2nd-longest economic expansionon record and why more of the country might soon benefit from higher pay. Companies continue to find ways to contain costs and many customers simply are unwilling to pay higher prices for goods and services.
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The report boosted the stock market: The Dow jumped nearly 300 points.
The U.S. economy had a net gain of 164,000 jobs last month.
The NFIB report said 57 percent of responding small businesses said they were hiring or planning to hire in April, up from 53 percent in March.
Hiring also rose smartly among health-care providers and manufacturers, each of which added 24,000 jobs. Employment in mining has risen by 86,000 since October 2016.
The economy needs to create roughly 120,000 jobs per month to keep up with growth in the working-age population.
"We've seen great movement in jobs creation", she said.
President Trump celebrated the report.
Government payrolls fell 4,000 in April amid a decline in education employment at state governments. Since President Trump's election, almost 3.2 million American jobs have been created.