(Reuters) - The U.S. private sector in April generated the most jobs since February 2006, but the jobless rate jumped back up to 9 percent from the previous month's 8.8 percent.
As economists try to make sense of these conflicting signals, perhaps the only certainty was that it will take another couple more months of data to figure out exactly where the U.S. economy is headed.
Total U.S. non-farm payroll employment expanded by 244,000 jobs in April according to the Labor Department's survey of employers, well above median forecasts in a Reuters poll for a gain of 186,000 and the strongest reading in 11 months.
However, the separate household survey, from which the unemployment rate is derived, painted an entirely different picture. It showed the number of employed Americans falling by 190,000 on net following a 291,000 rise in March. The number of jobless in that report, meanwhile, rose by 205,000.
The increase in the jobless rate surprised forecasters, who had been looking for a steady reading of 8.8 percent. The unemployment rate had fallen sharply in recent months, though a shrinking labor force was a factor behind the decline.
"Had the (labor force) participation remained unchanged, the unemployment rate would still have been 10.1 percent in March," Goldman Sachs economists said in a research note ahead of the April employment report.
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