WASHINGTON — Nonfarm payrolls in April increased by 290,000, exceeding economists’ estimates and posting the largest increase in four years, as the unemployment rate increased to 9.9%, the Labor Department reported Friday.

The gain in payrolls, which have increased for four consecutive months, were fueled in part by a 66,000 gain for Census hiring. Manufacturing added 44,000 jobs, professional and business services added 80,000, and health and education sector contributed 35,000.

The unemployment rate increased to the highest since December when it was 10.0%.

Economists polled by Thomson Reuters expected employers to add 200,000 workers and for the jobless rate to stay at 9.7%, according to the median estimate.

Average hourly earnings increased 0.3% in April following a 0.1% decline in March.

Subscribe Now

Independent and authoritative analysis and perspective for the bond buying industry.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.