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Solid Job Gains In April Ease Fears About Economy

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.

Americans' confidence in the economy jumped last month, lifted by a brighter outlook for hiring and expectations for higher pay, according to the Conference Board, a research group. Cheaper gasoline, the booming stock market and rising home values are also no doubt making people more confident.

The average sales price of a home rose 9.3 percent in February compared with a year ago, the most in nearly seven years, according to the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city index.

Yet the global economy, by contrast, is slowing. The European Union warned Friday, for example, that the 17 countries that use the euro will shrink by a collective 0.4 percent this year. And unemployment in the eurozone is 12.1 percent. In Greece and Spain, it's roughly 27 percent.

Both Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and European Central Bank President Mario Draghi have suggested that governments need to focus on stimulating growth and not just on spending cuts and deficit reduction.

Economists have forecast that the U.S. economy will grow roughly 2 percent this year, below last year's 2.2 percent. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the tax increases and government spending cuts will have shaved about 1.25 percentage points from growth this year. That means that without those measures, the economy could have grown a strong 3.3 percent in 2013.

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