One cautionary note in the employment report: Most of the biggest job gains were in lower-paying fields, such as hotels and restaurants, which added 45,000 jobs, and retail, which added 29,000. Temporary-help firms gained 31,000 positions.
By contrast, construction companies and governments cut jobs. Manufacturing employment was flat.
Some higher-paying sectors added workers. Professional and technical services, which include accounting, engineering and architecture, added 23,000 jobs. Education and health services gained 44,000.
Average hourly pay rose, but the average workweek for private-sector employees dipped 0.2 hour to 34.4 hours. That meant average weekly paychecks declined.But over the past year, total pay after adjusting for inflation is up a healthy 2.1 percent, economists said. That should help boost consumer spending in coming months. The job growth is occurring while the U.S. economy is growing modestly but steadily. It grew at a 2.5 percent annual rate in the January-March quarter, fueled by the strongest consumer spending in two years. The housing recovery is helping drive more hiring. Rising home sales and construction create jobs and increase spending on furniture, landscaping and other services. One company that has benefited is SolarCity, based in San Mateo, Calif. Rising home building has helped increase demand for the solar-power systems the company installs in homes and businesses. CEO Lyndon Rive said SolarCity added 177 jobs in April and will welcome its 3,000th employee Monday. It is hiring engineers, installers and administrative support staff and still has 400 openings. Consumers have been spending more even though their take-home pay was shrunk this year by a Social Security tax increase. On top of that, the economy has been under pressure from the across-the-board government spending cuts that began taking effect March 1. And some small and midsize companies are concerned about new requirements under the federal health care law.