WASHINGTON ( TheStreet) -- Employers added even more workers to their payrolls in April than expected, the government said Thursday, lending hope that the labor market is on the mend.

Nonfarm payrolls added 290,000 jobs last month, according to a Labor Department report released Friday morning. The Wall Street consensus was looking for a slightly milder pickup of 187,000 jobs, according to Briefing.com.

Meanwhile, the nation's unemployment rate, which was expected to hold steady at 9.7%, rose to 9.9%. But much of the rate increase may be attributed to a larger labor force looking for jobs again.

Solid Jobs Report Can Only do so Much (Forbes)

Revisions over the prior months were even more promising. The March gain, which was originally tabbed at an additional 162,000 jobs, was revised higher to reflect a jump of 230,000 jobs. Nonfarm payrolls also added 39,000 jobs in February after the government originally reported that employers shed 14,000 jobs.

"It's a solid report," said Stuart Hoffman, chief economist at PNC Financial Services Group. "This is a story of private companies, not rapidly, but persistently hiring."

"While we have a long time to go, and we've only put down a down payment on the losses, it is encouraging and a reminder that the economic fundamentals are better and the job market is going to improve," he added. "At least we're now learning that we're coming out of the cold winter months with some upward economic momentum."

A closer look shows the pickup was felt across a wide swath of industries. The manufacturing ranks added 44,000 jobs during the month, the report continued, while professional and business service employers gained 80,000 jobs. Within the latter sector, 26,000 temporary jobs were added.

Even construction employment, a weak spot in recent labor market trends, edged up for the second month in a row, adding 14,000 jobs in April after gaining 26,000 jobs in March.

Census hiring added another 66,000 temporary workers to the final tally. Market observers were scrutinizing this category closely since brisk private sector hiring, rather than temporary government gains, are given more weight in the minds of most. The census gains were below most expectations, signaling that private sector growth was a primary driver last month

The average workweek edged up by a tenth of hour to reach 34.1 hours, which was just ahead of forecasts, and average hourly earnings rose by a penny to hit $22.47.

With the labor environment seeing some improvement, it looks like more people are scouring job openings once again and, therefore, counting in official rate statistics. The department said 805,000 people came into the work force during the month. But with a still slow hiring market, that surge also helped push up the unemployment rate. The so-called "underemployment rate," which also includes part-timers seeking out full-time opportunities and some who gave up looking all together, rose to 17.1% from 16.9% in March.

Still, the number of people who've been unemployed for 27 weeks or more also ticked up to 6.72 million after landing at 6.55 million the month prior.

The headlining job growth continues to add to further signs that the labor market is recovering. Automatic Data Processing earlier in the week said private sector employers added another 32,000 jobs to their payrolls last month. The Institute for Supply Management said manufacturing activity showed its strongest level of growth since 2004, helped by a steady improvement in that sector's job market. Layoff announcements also slowed to a four-year low in April, said Challenger, Gray & Christmas on Wednesday, declining by 43%.

--Written by Sung Moss in New York

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