By CHRISTOPHER S. RUGABER
WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The U.S. economy showed in April that it's healthier than many had feared, adding a solid 165,000 jobs and driving the unemployment rate down a notch to a four-year low of 7.5 percent.
Not only that, but many more people were hired in February and March than previously thought, the Labor Department said Friday.
The job gains came despite a global slowdown, Social Security tax increases and federal spending cuts that some had feared would be a drag on the economy.
The stock market soared on the news, with the Dow closing up 142 points, or nearly 1 percent, after briefly breaking 15,000 for the first time in history.
Coming after a poor jobs report for March, the figures helped ease fears that U.S. hiring might be slumping this spring for a fourth straight year.
"All things considered, 165,000 isn't the biggest monthly gain in payrolls you'll ever see, but it's enough to assuage concerns that the economy had stalled again," said Paul Ashworth, an economist at Capital Economics.
The Labor Department revised upward its estimate of job gains in February and March by a combined 114,000. It now says employers added 332,000 jobs in February and 138,000 in March.
The economy has created an average of 208,000 jobs a month from November through April â¿¿ well above the monthly average of 138,000 for the previous six months.
The job market is benefiting from a resurgent housing market, rising consumer confidence and the Federal Reserve's stimulus actions, which have helped lower borrowing costs and lift the stock market.
The unemployment rate edged down from 7.6 percent in March and has fallen 0.4 percentage point since the start of the year, though it remains high. The Fed has said it plans to keep short-term interest rates at record lows at least until unemployment falls to 6.5 percent.