WASHINGTON — Nonfarm payrolls increased 431,000 in May, less than economists estimated but the strongest monthly gain in more than 10 years, although private payrolls increased by just 41,000, the Labor Department reported Friday. The unemployment rate fell to 9.7%.

Workers hired for the 2010 Census accounted for more than 95% of the nonfarm payroll gain, bringing the total temporary census staffing to 564,000. May’s nonfarm payroll increase was the largest since March 2000.

Economists polled by Thomson Reuters expected nonfarm payrolls to increase by 503,000 in May and for the unemployment rate to decline to 9.8%, according to the median estimate.

Average hourly earnings increased 0.2% and the average work week for all employees increased to 34.2. The work week has increased for four consecutive months. The average workweek for production and nonsupervisory employees also increased by 0.1-hour, or 6 minutes, to 33.5 hours.

Economists expected average hourly earnings to increase 0.1% and for the work week to hold steady at 34.1 hours, according to median estimates from Thomson Reuters.

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