Ray of light on economic growth

The Labour Department offered a
fairly rosy view on the jobs market, saying the U.S. job market had its best
month in three years in March.

The report said nonfarm payrolls
added 162,000 jobs in March, less than 190,000 expected, mainly due to fewer
census-related jobs than anticipated, though census hiring is expected to pick
up in the next few months. Private payrolls added 123,000 jobs in March, the
fourth gain in five months. Nationwide unemployment held steady at 9.7 per cent
for the third straight month.

A number of recent reports have
pointed to a slow-but-steady economic recovery. Jobs growth is widely viewed as
a key step toward that growth since steady pay checks will lead Americans to
spend more money and default less on their loans.

The Institute for Supply
Management, a trade group, said Monday its service index rose to 55.4 in March
from 53 in February.

A reading above 50 indicates growth
in the sector.

It is the strongest pace of growth
since ISM revised how it measured the service sector in January 2008.

Another report released showed
improvement in the residential home market. The National Association of
Realtors said the number of buyers who agreed to purchase previously occupied
homes rose 8.2 per cent in February to 97.6 from 90.2 in January.

Economists had expected a reading
of 90.3. The index is considered a signal of future sales activity.

The report “may signal the
early stages of a second surge of home sales this spring,” said Lawrence
Yun, the trade group’s chief economist. Home sales had been sluggish during the
winter, partly because shoppers felt less rushed after lawmakers extended the
deadline to qualify for a tax credit. The new deadline for the tax credit is 30
April.

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