WASHINGTON – U.S. employers created a surprisingly large 274,000 new jobs in April and added more workers in each of the two prior months than first thought, the Labor Department (search) said Friday in a report that eased fears about economic growth.
The April jobs total far outstripped Wall Street economists' expectations for 170,000 new jobs.
Further underlining the surge, the government said 93,000 more jobs were created in February and March than it previously reported — 146,000 in March instead of 110,000 and a whopping 300,000 in February instead of 243,000.
The unemployment rate, however, which is calculated from a separate survey, was unchanged at 5.2 percent in April.
The jobs data sent U.S. Treasury debt prices skidding lower on a conviction that a strong economy will keep the Federal Reserve (search) pushing interest rates higher to curb inflation.
Stock price futures and the U.S. dollar climbed as the hiring boom pointed to stronger times ahead for U.S. industry.
Job gains were broad-based with manufacturing the only major sector to shed positions. Construction employment snapped back after a soft March, adding 47,000 to payrolls for the strongest hiring since March 2004.
"It shows that the economy has a lot of underlying strength," said Gary Thayer, chief economist of A.G. Edwards and Sons Inc. in St. Louis, Mo.
"It suggests that the cooling off we've seen is not a significant problem. High energy prices are hurting confidence, but don't appear to be hurting job creation," he added.
The strong data were a balm for financial markets who had grown nervous about recent data indicating a slowing in economic activity.
"Not only is the April report strong, but it's stronger than what the summary suggests," said economist Richard DeKaser of National City Corp. in Cleveland. "We have huge upward revisions. We see hours worked rising sharply in the month of April, which indicates how the workforce is being utilized."
Average hourly earnings in private industry climbed five cents to a record $16 in the month, while the average workweek increased to 33.9 hours from 33.7 in March.
That was the longest workweek since a matching average in September 2002 and is significant since employers facing heavier workloads generally increase hours worked by existing staff before adding employees, so more hiring may lie ahead.