Report: US Unemployment Drops; Jobs Grow; Stocks Soar

Posted February 4th, 2012 at 5:05 am (UTC-5)
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U.S. stocks rose sharply Friday after government experts reported strong job growth and a drop in the unemployment rate.

The Labor Department said the economy had a net gain of 243,000 jobs, while the unemployment rate fell two-tenths of a percent to 8.3 percent. It is the fifth month in a row that the jobless rate has declined, and the strongest job gains since last April.

The benchmark Dow Jones Industrial Average hit its highest level since 2008, and oil prices rose on speculation that an improving economy would boost energy demand and prices.

High unemployment has made the economy the top issue in this year's presidential election race. U.S. President Barack Obama said the economy is getting stronger, but too many Americans are still out of work. He urged Congress to take action to continue a cut in the payroll tax that he says will help further job growth.

But Republican Mitt Romney said the economic recovery is slower than it should be, and said Mr. Obama's policies have hurt progress. Romney is the leading candidate among opposition Republicans for the nomination of their party to challenge Mr. Obama in November's election.