Spring thaw could boost economy

WASHINGTON (AP) – Signs that the U.S. economy is emerging from a deep winter freeze have raised hopes that hiring accelerated in April.

Economists are mostly bullish. They forecast that the economy gained 210,000 jobs in April, according to a survey by FactSet, and that the unemployment rate dipped to 6.6 percent from 6.7 percent.

The government will release the April employment report at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time Friday.

If economists’ forecasts are accurate, April will have produced the largest burst of hiring since November. That would show that the economy is producing consistently solid job growth. Job gains totaled 197,000 in February and 192,000 in March.

The steady pace of hiring has encouraged more Americans to start looking for work. That’s a hopeful sign that they think their prospects for finding a job have improved. In the first three months of this year, about 1.3 million people began looking for jobs, and most have found them.

Last year, by contrast, the number of people either working or looking for work shrank by roughly 500,000.

Most of the job gains in March were in low-paying industries, a pattern than has been consistent for most of the nearly 5-year old recovery. Temporary help agencies, for example, added 28,500 jobs, hotels and restaurants 33,100 and retailers 21,300.

Recent economic reports have pointed to faster economic growth after a dismal start to the year, slowed by a brutal winter.