Job seekers wait to speak with employers at a job fair in Brooklyn, N.Y., on April 11, 2014.
Photo by Andrew Gombert/EPA

U.S. gains 215,000 jobs in March, unemployment rises to 5 percent

Updated

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Nonfarm payrolls increased by 215,000 in April, providing a positive sign for an economy that otherwise has been slowing lately.

The jobs growth came as the headline unemployment rate rose to 5.0 percent, the first month-over-month increase since May 2015.

Economists surveyed by Reuters were expecting nonfarm payrolls to show growth of 205,000 for March, down from the initially reported 242,000, and the unemployment rate to hold steady at 4.9 percent.

Wall Street looked to the Labor Department’s report for clues as to the health of an economy that is close to stall speed. The Atlanta Fed sees gross domestic product increasing just 0.6 percent for the first quarter, a decline from the anemic 1.4 percent growth to close out 2015.

Fed officials watch the jobs report closely as they look to normalize monetary policy. The U.S. central bank hiked its interest rate target a quarter point in December, a move that led to intense financial market volatility.

Fed officials of late – particularly Chair Janet Yellen – have been making mostly dovish comments about future rate expectations. A sharp decline in exports and residential investment are fueling the downbeat forecasts.

The Fed primarily is looking for some signs of healthy inflation, particularly in wages and labor force participation. Economists expected a 0.2 percent gain in average hourly earnings, which would translate into a 2.2 percent annualized increase.

This story originally appeared on CNBC.com

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U.S. gains 215,000 jobs in March, unemployment rises to 5 percent

Updated