Jump in Payrolls Is Seen as a Sign of New Optimism

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from The New York Times,

After a frustrating series of false starts since the economic recovery began five years ago, American businesses appear to be increasingly confident about hiring new workers.

In the best monthly showing in more than two years, employers added 288,000 jobs in April, the Labor Department said on Friday, representing three consecutive months in which payrolls grew by more than 200,000. The report, combined with other recent data, suggests the economy is poised to expand at a faster pace in the coming months, after a slow start in the depths of winter.

Despite the big jump in payrolls, wages did not grow at all in April, illustrating why so many Americans remain doubtful that they will benefit from what both the Federal Reserve and the White House see as evidence of a resurgent economy.

“The payroll numbers suggest that the economy is recovering from a weather-induced slowdown,” said Ethan Harris, co-head of global economics at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. But, he said, “we still have not reached the point where workers have negotiating power.”

Even a sharp drop in the nation’s unemployment rate, to 6.3 percent from March’s 6.7 percent, provided little cause for celebration, since it was primarily because of a large decline in the number of people participating in the labor force rather than an increase in the number of Americans telling government survey workers that they had found a new job.

As a result, even as President Obama sought to seize on the upswing in the job market as evidence that his policies are working, he continues to struggle to capitalize politically on the improving economy.

Although the unemployment rate is at the lowest level of Mr. Obama’s presidency, his job approval rating is also near a record low.

Economists had anticipated a jump in hiring in April, as the bitterly cold winter faded into memory and consumer and business activity rose in tandem with temperatures, but the increase was much better than had been expected and cut across both white-collar and blue-collar sectors of the economy. Professional and business services was the single biggest gainer, adding 75,000 positions, while the number of construction jobs jumped by 32,000.

In addition, government statisticians also revised upward the number of jobs added in February and March, suggesting the economy was stronger than first assumed.

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