US employment increases

US employment increased more than expected in April as private companies created jobs at the fastest pace in five years, pointing to underlying strength in the economy, even though the jobless rate rose to nine per cent.

Nonfarm payrolls rose 244,000 last month, the most in 11 months, the Labor Department said. The private sector accounted for all of the job gains last month, with payrolls rising 268,000, the largest rise since February 2006.

The gain in overall payrolls, above economist' expectations for a 186,000 increase, was supportive of views the economic recovery would regain speed this quarter after stumbling in the first three months of the year on high commodity prices.

Data for the previous two months was revised to show 46,000 more jobs were added.

Gains in April marked seven straight months of net job creation, but remained too little to make much of dent on the pool of 13.7m Americans out of work.