U.S. nonfarm payrolls grew at the fastest pace in four years in April as private sector employers ramped up hiring, raising the strong possibility that the labor market recovery may be picking up steam.
Employers added 290,000 jobs in April, the Labor Department said on Friday. It revised figures for February and March to show 121,000 more jobs were added than previously thought. The unemployment rate, however, rose to 9.9 percent as the size of the labor force increased.
Payrolls have now risen for four straight months.
Analysts polled by Reuters had expected nonfarm payrolls to rise 200,000 last month and the jobless rate to remain unchanged at 9.7 percent. The median forecast from the 20 most accurate forecasters was for a payrolls increase of 188,000.
Private sector employment increased 231,000, also the largest gain since March 2006, after rising 174,000 in March. Private payrolls have now grown for four months. Census hiring contributed 66,000 jobs.
Stubbornly high unemployment has been a political sore spot for President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats, even though the job market appears to be slowly on the mend.
About 8.2 million jobs were lost during the recession and economists warn it is likely to take years to regain that lost employment.
U.S. consumers have begun to participate in what has been a manufacturing-led recovery, but job growth is crucial to sustaining that trend.
Last month, manufacturing payrolls increased 44,000 after rising 19,000 in March. Construction employment gained 14,000, rising for a second month and defying expectations of a fall.
Payrolls in the service sector increased 166,000, advancing for a third month. Temporary help hiring increased 26,200, strengthening the jobs recovery theme. Temporary employment is seen as a precursor to full-time jobs. Government payrolls rose 59,000, adding onto the prior month's 56,000 increase.
The average workweek rose to 34.1 hours from 34 hours in March.
(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci.)