US jobless rate at four-year low as hiring grows

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UNITED States employers hired far more workers than expected last month, pushing unemployment in the world’s biggest economy to a four-year low.

Stock markets on both sides of the Atlantic received a boost from yesterday’s data, though weak US banking shares limited the gains. London’s FTSE 100 index closed up 44.42 points at 6,483.58.

US firms took on 236,000 workers in February, well ahead of Wall Street forecasts and the 157,000 jobs created in January.

The jobless rate fell to 7.7 per cent, the lowest since December 2008, from 7.9 per cent in January. The change reflected gains in employment as well as people leaving the labour market.

However, the number of people classed as long-term unemployed – out of work for at least 27 weeks – was unchanged and accounted for some 40 per cent of the jobless total.

Economists believe the economy needs to add about 250,000 jobs per month over a sustained period to significantly reduce unemployment.

Craig Erlam, market analyst at Alpari, said traders had pulled out of equities on concerns that a strong recovery could encourage the Federal Reserve to scale back its asset purchase programme. He added: “I still think it’s too early to talk about the Fed tightening monetary policy and can’t imagine these figures alone will change much.”

Jason Conibear, trading director at Cambridge Mercantile, added: “These numbers will ignite the dollar and next week could see it make considerable gains against both the euro and pound.”