US employment returned to its pre-recession peak in May with a solid pace of hiring that offered confirmation the economy has snapped back from a winter slump.
Non-farm payrolls increased 217,000 last month, the Labor Department said on Friday, in line with market expectations. Data for March and April was revised to show 6,000 fewer jobs created than previously reported.
“This was a very solid report with no obvious warts to detract from the underlying message of sustained improvement in economic activity,” said Millan Mulraine, deputy chief economist at TD Securities in New York.
May marked a fourth straight month of job gains above 200,000, a stretch last witnessed in January 2000, even though it also marked a slowdown from the 282,000 jobs created in April, when hiring was still bouncing back from a winter lull.
The nation finally recouped the 8.7 million jobs lost during the recession, with 8.8 million more people working now than at the trough in February 2010. But the working age population has since increased 10.6 million and 12.8 million people have dropped out of the labor force. US stocks rose on the upbeat report, while prices for Treasury debt were little changed. The dollar rose marginally against a basket of currencies.
The pace of hiring adds to data ranging from automobile sales to services and factory sector activity that have suggested economic growth this quarter will top a 3.0 per cent annual pace. The economy contracted at a 1.0 percent rate in the first three months of the year, dragged down by unusually harsh winter weather and a slow pace of inventory building by businesses.