Strong jobs report lifts S&P 500 over 1,600

Posted: May 05, 2013

Stock markets soared Friday after an unexpectedly strong U.S. jobs report for April painted a brighter picture of the labor market than many economists were expecting.

The Labor Department said 165,000 jobs were added in April, and weak jobs numbers for March and February were also revised upward.

The April unemployment rate fell to 7.5 percent, the lowest in four years, from 7.6 percent in March.

On that news, the Dow Jones industrial average crossed 15,000 for the first time before closing at 14,973.96, up 142.38 on the day. The Standard & Poor's 500 index, a broader market measure, passed 1,600 for the first time, closing at 1,614.42, up 16.83 for the day.

"The market investors were positioned for a disappointing report," said Mark Zandi, chief economist with Moody's Analytics. "So when we got the bigger number, and the revisions, and, of course, we are in a bull market, so everyone just piled in."

The government said 11.7 million people remained unemployed, and those looking for work probably are frustrated, but Zandi said many investors were relieved.

"They were pleasantly surprised, and given that investors are already very, very bullish for lots of different reasons, the market has taken off," Zandi said.

U.S. employers added 138,000 jobs in March, not 88,000, as previously reported, the Labor Department said.

February jobs numbers also jumped up, from a previously estimated 268,000 to 332,000. With these revisions, employment gains in February and March combined were 114,000 higher than earlier reported, the government said.

In April, the number of people employed part-time for economic reasons - sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers - increased by 278,000 to 7.9 million.

"The only blemish in the report, and it's not inconsequential, is the average weekly hours worked declined 0.2 hours," to 34.4 hours, Zandi said. "That's a large decline, and it's in large part because of a big move to part-time employment involuntarily. So people have moved to part-time, not because they wanted it, but because employers asked them to take the part-time work."

Cornell University economics professor Steven C. Kyle said government job cuts were part of the problem, and might worsen in coming months as the sequester effect works through the economy.

"If government employment had merely kept pace with spending and population trends, as it has in every other recession since World War II, we would be looking at a vastly different picture right now," Kyle said. "With Congress insisting on continued fiscal contraction and the president going along with it, we should expect continued slow growth in the months to come."

The number of long-term unemployed - those jobless for 27 weeks or more - declined by 258,000 to 4.4 million in April.

The unemployment rate for adult women, which was 6.7 percent, declined in April, and the rates for adult men (7.1 percent), teenagers (24.1 percent), whites (6.7 percent), blacks (13.2 percent), Asians (5.1 percent), and Hispanics (9 percent) showed little or no change.

"Let's get real here, 165,000 new jobs, even the 176,000 new private-sector jobs, is good but hardly great," said Joel Naroff, president of Naroff Economic Advisors Inc. and an Inquirer contributing columnist. "Fiscal policy is restraining growth. Indeed, job losses in the public sector are likely to increase, which will make it harder to post decent payroll numbers."


Contact Linda Loyd at 215-854-2831 or lloyd@phillynews.com.

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