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U.S. Employers Continue Hiring Spree

May 7, 2010 (The Palm Beach Post, Fla.) Private employers went on their biggest hiring spree in five years last month, and the jobs picture brightened so much that economists brushed off news that the nation's unemployment rate rose slightly in April.

The Labor Department said Friday that companies hired 268,000 workers, the fastest pace of private hiring since February 2006. After accounting for government job cuts, the economy grew by 244,000 jobs in April.

The nation's unemployment rate rose to 9 percent in April from 8.8 percent in March, but many economists greeted that bit of unwelcome news as a sign that the job market has improved enough to lure discouraged workers back into the hunt for work.

The Labor Department said the number of discouraged workers (those who want work but have stopped looking) fell by 208,000.

"There have been people who have been suffering in silence who have not been accounted for," said Joann Raphael, an economics professor and dean at Strayer University in Palm Beach Gardens. "They're reentering the work force. To me, that is very hopeful. That needs to happen before we see true growth in employment."

In another hopeful sign, the number of job seekers unemployed for six months or more dropped by 283,000. Long-term unemployment, the bane of the recession, seems to be easing.

Dustin Kushner of Boca Raton said he was unemployed for only a month before being hired last month at a McDonald's in suburban Boca. After losing his telemarketing job, Kushner said he quickly found a position as part of McDonald's national hiring day.

While he's taking orders and cleaning tables for now, Kushner, 25, said he hopes to join the management track at McDonald's.

"I actually see a future with McDonald's," Kushner said. "I'm looking for more of a career than a job."

While Kushner found work in short order, others see a job market flooded with applicants.

Fred Sancilio, owner of Riviera Beach drug maker Sancilio & Co., said advertising one opening brings a flood of 400 resumes.

"You mention a job opening, and all of a sudden you've got 400 pieces of paper you have to deal with," Sancilio said. "People are desperate."

But Friday's report from the Labor Department indicated that times are less dire for many job seekers. April marked the third straight month in which more than 200,000 jobs were created, the strongest three-month hiring binge in five years. In another cause for optimism, job gains in March and February were better than first reported.

Healthy job growth hasn't translated to raises or longer hours. Average hourly earnings were essentially flat, climbing by 3 cents to $22.95 in April. The average work week for all employees remained 34.3 hours.

Still, the latest employment figures suggest businesses are confident in the economy despite weak growth earlier this year and soaring gas prices. Stocks rose after the employment report was released. The Dow Jones industrial average jumped 168 points in morning trading before closing with a 54.57-point gain.

"It is a sign of relief. Economic momentum has not been lost," said Sung won Sohn, an economist at California State University. "Surprisingly, the rising energy prices have not made a significant dent in businesses' willingness to hire, indicating that their optimism on the economy has not faded."

The resurgent job market brings good news for President Obama's reelection bid, but Republicans said the economy would be performing even better without Democratic policies that they consider cumbersome and meddlesome.

"Our economy continues to suffer from the uncertainty being caused for private-sector job creators by the Democrats who run Washington," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Friday.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Copyright (c) 2011, The Palm Beach Post, Fla.

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