Americans' confidence in the economy jumped last month, lifted by a brighter outlook for hiring and expectations for higher pay, according to the Conference Board, a research group. Consumers' confidence and steady spending point to a broader recovery in their financial health that's easing the impact of the tax increase and raising hopes for sustainable growth.
Households have shed debt. Gasoline has gotten cheaper. Stock market averages are hitting new records.
And home values are up. Prices rose 9.3 percent in February compared with a year ago, the most in nearly seven years, according to the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city index.
Rising home values have helped restore household wealth. Still, prices nationwide remain about 30 percent below their peak during the housing bubble in 2006. They're back only to where they were in 2003.
Yet the global economy, by contrast, is slowing. The European Union warned Friday, for example, that the 17 countries that use the euro currency will shrink by a collective 0.4 percent this year. And unemployment across the eurozone is expected to hit an average of 12.2 percent. In Greece and Spain, it's forecast to reach 27 percent.
Both Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and European Central Bank President Mario Draghi have suggested that governments need to focus on stimulating growth and not just on spending cuts and deficit reduction.
In April, more Americans said they had part-time jobs even though they wanted full-time work. That figure rose 278,000 to 7.9 million, reversing a steep drop the previous month.
Some economists worry that restaurants, retail chains and other companies are hiring more part-time workers in preparation for the implementation of health care reform. Companies with more than 50 full-time employees in 2013 will be required to provide health insurance to their full-time staff next year.
Mark Vitner, an economist at Wells Fargo, said restaurants have been adding jobs even though industry surveys suggest that sales haven't picked up much.
The revisions to the March and February figures were unusually large. Retailers, restaurants and hotels added 48,000 more jobs in February than previously reported. They accounted for three-quarters of that month's revision.
The government revises each month's job totals twice in the following two months. The revisions occur because many companies in the survey submit their responses late. Typically, about 75 percent of the 145,000 employers surveyed submit their responses in time for each month's initial report. The response rate usually rises to about 95 percent for the third and final estimate.
The number of people who have been unemployed for more than six months dropped 258,000 to 4.4 million. Over the past year, the number of long-term unemployed has declined by 687,000.
A fire overnight at the Labor Department's headquarters shut down the building for most employees. Members of the news media were allowed in for the release of the jobs report.
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