WASHINGTON — Hiring accelerated and pay rose at a solid pace in April, setting the stage for healthy U.S. economic growth to endure despite fears of a slowdown earlier this year.Employers added 263,000 jobs, with the unemployment rate dropping to a five-decade low of 3.6% from 3.8%, though that drop partly reflected an increase in the number of Americans who stopped looking for work. Average hourly pay rose 3.2% from 12 months earlier, matching March’s year-over-year increase.Friday’s jobs report from the government showed that economic growth remains brisk enough to encourage strong hiring nearly a decade into the economy’s recovery from the Great Recession. The economic expansion, which has fueled 103 straight months of hiring, is set to become the longest in history in July.“All of the recession talk earlier in the spring was much ado about nothing,” said Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC.Trump administration officials insisted that the job market’s gains were a result of the president’s tax cuts and deregulatory policies.“We have entered a very strong and durable prosperity cycle,” said Larry Kudlow, director of the White House’s National Economic Council.President Donald Trump has also pressed the Federal Reserve to cut short-term interest rates because inflation remains low. But most economists said the healthy jobs picture, against the backdrop of low inflation, would reinforce the Fed’s current wait-and-see approach. The Fed raised rates four times last year but has signaled that it doesn’t foresee any rate increases this year.Investors welcomed the April jobs data by sending stock prices broadly higher. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 197 points, or 0.75%.Jason Guggisberg, vice president of Adecco USA, a staffing firm that finds temporary and permanent hires for business clients, said companies are doing much more to attract workers. They are offering more perks — like free lunches or weekly happy hours — and allowing more flexible work schedules.
Ted Murphy reads winning bids for state and federal lease petroleum sales. (Photo by Elizabeth Harball, Alaska’s Energy Desk)State and federal oil and gas lease sales held Dec. 14 in Anchorage saw an unexpected surge of interest in the North Slope.Listen Now“The bids started to come in and they kept running down to my office going, ‘you’re not believing this,’” Ted Murphy, Associate Director of the Bureau of Land Management said. “We were surprised.”High bids in the federal oil and gas lease sale totaled $18.8 million — a huge increase from last year’s total of about $790,000.The sale was for land in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, where ConocoPhillips recently began developing the first two projects on the 24 million-acre chunk of federal land. ConocoPhillips snapped up the lion’s share of federal leases. But unlike last year, the company had some competition. It had to outbid a few smaller players like Colorado-based Armstrong Oil and Gas. Armstrong Oil and Gas is also pursuing development of what could be a major oil field on the North Slope with its partner Repsol, a Spanish company.Armstrong and ConocoPhillips also placed successful bids for state land on the North Slope. The Houston-based company Burgundy Xploration, LLC also bought up a significant number of state tracts.According to officials, this year’s state lease sale is one of the most significant Alaska has seen in nearly two decades. The state saw 402 bids for tracts on the North Slope, and winning bids totaled nearly $17 million. Including lease sales in the Beaufort Sea area, the state took in nearly $17.8 million. Last year, the state took in $9.5 million. The state said it was the second largest sale, by acreage, since 1998.Alaska Natural Resources Commissioner Andy Mack said he is very pleased with the results.Protesters in front of BLM offices in downtown Anchorage. (Photo: Elizabeth Harball, Alaska’s Energy Desk)“Very exciting stuff and it seems to be continuing the intense interest in that region,” Mack said.Governor Bill Walker also praised this year’s lease sale, calling it “great news for the state and the industry.”But several environmental groups objected to the lease sales. Nicole Whittington-Evans of the Wilderness Society said she’s worried about how oil development on BLM land could affect one North Slope community in particular.“The leases that were sold today are further surrounding the community of Nuiqsut in important subsistence use areas,” Whittington-Evans said.Another group, the Center for Biological Diversity, gathered outside BLM’s offices to protest the federal lease sale, saying it was inconsistent with the Obama administration’s goal to curb climate change.