WASHINGTON – The economy got what it needed in April: A burst of hiring that added a net 290,000 jobs, the biggest monthly total in four years.
The improving picture caused so many more people to pour into the labor force in search of employment that the jobless rate rose from 9.7 percent to 9.9 percent.
The hiring last month of 66,000 temporary government workers to conduct the census added to overall job creation. But private employers — the backbone of the economy — contributed the most: A surprisingly strong 231,000 jobs, the most since March 2006, the Labor Department said Friday.
The new jobs, generated by sectors across the economy, are the first sign that the recovery is adding significant numbers of new jobs — even if not enough to absorb the influx of jobseekers. That's why the unemployment rate rose.
The encouraging message in Friday's report, though, is that employers are finally hiring again.
"Companies have a newfound confidence in the future of the economic recovery and on the part of their own business prospects," said Joel Naroff, president of Naroff Economic Advisors. "The broad-based job gains are an indication that businesses are feeling more comfortable about expanding their work forces," he said.
President Barack Obama called the addition of 290,000 jobs in April "very encouraging news." But he said much remains to be done to get Americans back to work.
"This week's jobs numbers comes as a relief to Americans who found a job," Obama said. "But it offers obviously little comfort to those who are still out of work."
The unemployment rate rose in April, mainly because a flood of 805,000 jobseekers — perhaps feeling better about their prospects — resumed their searches for work.
Many economists have predicted the unemployment rate would rise as people come back into the labor force. The jobless rate hit 10.1 percent in October, a 26-year high. The rate could climb back up to the 10 percent range in the months ahead, Naroff said.
Friday's employment report sketched out a picture of a healing jobs market and an economy picking up momentum in the early spring