Unemployment dropped to 4.4% in April, the lowest in 10 years, as an expanding travel and leisure industry helped payroll growth rebound from a dreary March.
Employers added some 211,000 jobs, the U.S. Labor Department reported, topping an estimate of 170,000 from Bank of America (BAC) and an average of 185,000 from economists. Gains for March were cut to 79,000 from a previous report of 98,000, which had already lagged estimates by a wide margin.
The numbers strengthen the Federal Reserve's hand in raising interest rates, which have been increased only three times after hovering near zero for seven years following the 2008 financial crisis. They also reflect optimism that President Trump will eventually deliver the economic growth he promised on the campaign trail, despite early setbacks such as a delay in repealing his predecessor's health-care plan.
"April employment data should put to rest concerns that somehow the economy was slowing to a complete stall," Steven Blitz, chief U.S. economist with TS Lombard, said in an e-mailed statement. "The Fed views employment data as more accurate indications of the economy's direction, and today's report leaves no doubt the direction is up.
The leisure and hospitality industry alone added 55,000 jobs in the fourth month of 2017, the department said, while 26,000 workers found posts in restaurants and bars and another 19,000 went to work in the finance industry.
The Easter holiday, which typically brings a surge in shopping for clothes and shoes at stores from Nordstrom (JWN) to Ralph Lauren (RL) , may have benefited retail numbers, which climbed by 6,000 after two months of double-digit declines, Joseph Song, a Bank of America economist, said in a note to clients.
"We remain somewhat bearish on the job market in the retail sector," he added, "as we think growing share of e-commerce will lead to a long-term structural shift in the demand for labor."
A broader indicator of labor market health, the so-called underemployment rate that includes discouraged workers and those in part-time jobs who want full-time work, narrowed 30 basis points to 8.6%, the department said.