Employment continued to grow in the U.S. as payrolls jumped to a prerecession peak in May, in a sign that the U.S. economy keeps gaining traction.
The unemployment rate held steady at 6.3 percent, the lowest in six years. Non-farm payrolls came at 217,000 in May following a gain of 282,000 in April, according to data release Friday by the U.S. Labor Department.
The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for Hispanics came in at 7.7 percent in the month, compared to 7.3 percent in April. The rate for Hispanics is down significantly from 9.1 percent a year ago.
Related: Hispanic Unemployment Edged Up in May
The jobs increase was the fourth rise of more than 200,000 jobs, the first time that's happened in 14 years.
The increase is slightly more than some analysts had predicted. Bloomberg, for instance, had expected an increase of 215,000.
May's increase put total U.S. employment at 138.5 million, higher than the peak of 138.4 million reached in January 2008.
Private sector employment rose by 216,000 in May. Excluding government agencies, the number of employed reached 116.1 million in March, the highest since before the financial meltdown.
Investors responded positively to the news. U.S. stock market indexes continue to stroll into new highs, and major market participants and analysts are gaining confidence in the U.S. economy, despite rumblings from the Fed about continued low consumer spending and wage growth.
Despite that, the Fed continues to ease back on its stimulus measures.
Average hourly earnings rose 0.2 percent to $24.38 in May from $24.33 in April, according to the BLS figures. That's an increase of 2.1 percent over the past year.
A federal survey of households, used to measure the unemployment rate, showed 192,000 people entered the workforce. That's about the same number who found jobs.
Mitigating all that, however, is that the employment participation rate held at 62.8 percent, the lowest since March 1978.
ICN.com Financial Markets contributed.
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