U.S. job growth rebounded last month and the unemployment rate dropped to a near seven-year low of 5.4 percent, signs of a pick-up in economic momentum that could keep the Federal Reserve on track to hike interest rates this year.
Nonfarm payrolls increased 223,000 as gains in services sector jobs offset weakness in mining, the Labor Department said on Friday. The one percentage point decline in the unemployment rate to its lowest level since May 2008 came even as more people piled into the labor market.
However, March payrolls were revised to show only 85,000 jobs created, the smallest since June 2012. That resulted in 39,000 fewer jobs added in February and March than previously reported.
Still the solid report, which showed steady gains in hourly earnings, suggested underlying strength in the economy at the start of the second quarter after growth hit a soft patch at the start of the year.
The economy wobbled in the first quarter and may have even contracted as it was buffeted by bad weather, port disruptions, a strong dollar and deep spending cuts by energy firms.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast payrolls rising 224,000 and the unemployment rate ticking down to 5.4 percent.