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Friday: U.S. Jobless Rate Rises to 9.9%, but Employers Add 290,000 Jobs; Britain Facing a Hung Parliament

Employers added 290,000 jobs in April — the biggest gain in four years — but the nation’s unemployment rate ticked up as thousands of Americans rejoined the labor force.

The April gain topped the expectations of most analysts and followed the creation of 230,000 jobs in March. Analysts had predicted payrolls to rise by 180,000, according to economists polled by Dow Jones Newswires.

According to Friday’s Labor Department report, 195,000 unemployed Americans reentered the work force last month, looking for jobs and sending the unemployment rate up to 9.9 percent from 9.7 percent in March. In all, 15.3 million Americans were out of work in April.

Hiring was helped by the federal government, which added 66,000 temporary workers to its books for the census count. Private employers added 231,000 new jobs, with some of the largest gains taking place in the manufacturing and construction sectors. Manufacturers added 44,000 jobs in April, while the construction industry added 14,000.

Market watchers will be waiting to see whether Friday’s jobs numbers can ignite a rally following the Dow Jones Industrial Average’ epic plunge Thursday. The free-fall began at 2:42 p.m. Within five minutes, the Dow plummeted nearly 1,000 points before rebounding to close at 10520.32, down 347.80 points.

During the brief panic, “Multiple stocks, ranging from Accenture PLC to Boston Beer Co., momentarily lost nearly 100% of their value, changing hands for just one penny,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

Investors are still scratching their heads. It was initially believed that fear over the Greek debt crisis fed the sell-off. Later, it appeared a potential electronic trading glitch may also have been to blame. Both the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission said they are investigating “unusual trading,” and the Nasdaq OMX Group announced it would cancel trades for 286 securities that fell or rose by at least 60 percent.

No Majority Winner in British Election

Votes are still being counted in Britain, but early results point to a hung Parliament. Exit polls show the Conservatives, led by David Cameron, in line to win the most seats in Parliament, but not the outright majority needed to take command of 10 Downing St.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s Labor Party appears headed for a second-place finish, followed by the Liberal Democrats, led by Nick Clegg.

On Friday, Cameron is expected to lay out his plans to establish a government that is “strong and stable with broad support, that acts in the national interest,” according to a statement from the Conservatives.

Prime Minister Brown has indicated he is not ready to step down, saying earlier today his “duty in all of this is that there be a stable, strong and principled government and to play my part in making that possible.” Clegg, now a “potential king-maker,” has said Conservatives have won the right to try assembling a government first.

As Ned Temko of the Observer told Margaret Warner on Thursday’s NewsHour:

“There will be a lot of pressure, particularly from the Conservatives, to say that because the Conservatives have the largest vote number and seat number, they should get the first attempt to form a government…. The rules in Britain, the constitutional convention, is quite the opposite. The prime minister remains prime minister until he resigns. And you could see Gordon Brown and Labor, as, indeed, they have indicated they will do, holding on and trying to form a coalition themselves, until they’re absolutely sure they can’t do that.”

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