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US Adds 236K Jobs, Unemployment Falls To 7.7 Pct.

U.S. and Chinese demand for European goods will be vital as the 17 countries that use the euro struggle to emerge from recession. Spending cuts by indebted governments in Italy and Spain have squeezed those economies.

"The extent to which the U.S. is recovering and potentially the labor market is improving is potentially an important dynamic that Europe would welcome," said Nick Matthews, an analyst at Nomura in London.

The U.S. economy is benefiting from the Federal Reserve's drive to keep interest rates at record lows. Lower borrowing rates have made it easier for Americans to buy homes and cars and for companies to expand.

The Fed and key central banks overseas have taken extraordinary steps to pump money into their financial systems to try to spur borrowing and spending, boost stock prices and stimulate growth.

The Fed has said it plans to keep the benchmark rate it controls near zero at least until the unemployment rate has fallen to 6.5 percent, as long as the inflation outlook remains mild.

Friday's jobs report isn't expected to move up the Fed's timetable for any rate increase.

"This may not yet be the substantial improvement in the labor market outlook that the Fed is looking for, but it's moving in the right direction," Paul Ashworth, an economist at Capital Economics, said in a note to clients.

The brighter hiring picture has yet to cause a flood of out-of-work people who aren't looking for a job to start seeking one. The proportion of Americans either working or looking for work dipped one-tenth of a percentage point in February to 63.5 percent, matching a 30-year low.

Even though the recession officially ended in June 2009, many Americans have remained discouraged about their job prospects and have given up looking. Others have returned to, or stayed in, school. And the vast generation of baby boomers have begun to retire. Their exodus reduces the percentage of adults working or looking for work.

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