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JOBLESS INDEX FALLS TO 6.4%; UTAH RATE UP

SHARE JOBLESS INDEX FALLS TO 6.4%; UTAH RATE UP

The nation's unemployment rate inched downward to 6.4 percent and a stronger-than-expected 267,000 jobs were added in April, the government said Friday in a report that could tempt the Federal Reserve to push up interest rates again.

The Labor Department cited healthy job gains in services, retail trade and construction as the unemployment rate declined to its lowest level this year. Katharine G. Abraham, commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, said job growth would have been even stronger if not for a nationwide trucking strike that idled 70,000 drivers and dock workers most of the month.In Utah, unemployment increased to 3.5 percent in April from the 3.4 percent revised rate in March, according to Lecia Parks Langston, chief economist for the Utah Department of Employment Security.

"Although the state's unemployment rate increased slightly in April, our economy remains in excellent condition. She said the state's job growth continues to lead the country, but it might be detrimental to employers who cannot find people to fill the positions.

About 34,000 Utahns were out of work in April, 1,700 fewer than in April 1993 when the unemployment rate stood at 4 percent, Langston said.

The national rate compares with 6.5 percent for February and March. The year began with a 6.7 percent jobless figure. The Labor Department said the nation's non-farm payrolls swelled by 464,000 jobs in March, revised upward from the unusually robust 456,000 earlier reported. That figure was a six-year high.

Most economists had expected an increase of about 170,000 jobs, a healthy figure considering the strike, and believed even that number would worry investors concerned about inflation and influence the Federal Reserve to tighten credit later this month.

The stronger-than-expected report is a clear sign that the economy is rebounding, but rapid rate of growth is likely is causing concern on Wall Street.