Positive news from a jobs report this week fueled a stock rally Friday that had investors optimistic about economic recovery.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose above 15,000 for the first time in early trading, and the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index passed 1,600, which news reports described as psychologically significant milestones. The NASDAQ was also trading at its highest level in more than 12 years.
The bullish reaction was a response to new numbers from the U.S. Department of Labor, which said 165,000 jobs were created in the U.S. in April — beating Wall Street expectations for only about 148,000 jobs.
Federal officials also revised estimates for job creation earlier in the year, saying that the economy generated 332,000 jobs in February and 138,000 in March. Earlier estimates had indicated only 88,000 jobs had been created in March, sparking fears of another slowdown.
After the upgraded estimates were released the unemployment rate fell to 7.5 percent on Friday — it’s lowest rate since December 2008 — down from 7.6 percent in March.
The news appeared to buoy investors in restaurant companies and beyond. The NRN Restaurant Index rose 1.32 percent by market close Friday to 2,440.75, higher than it has been over the past year. The index of restaurant company stocks has ranged between 1,976 and 2,420.25 over the past 52 weeks.
Also at market close Friday, the Dow rose 0.96 percent to 14,973.96. The S&P 500, at 1,614.42, rose 1.05 percent, and NASDAQ climbed 1.14 percent to 3,378.63.
Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst at S&P Dow Jones Indices, told USA Today the rally has been a long time coming, saying it took “13 years, one month and 11 days” for the S&P 500 to climb the 100 points from 1,500 to 1,600.
The Dow passed the 14,000 mark in July of 2007.
Some economist downplayed the jobs report, saying many of the positions were in low-paying sectors, such as retail and food services. The leisure and hospitality sector, for example, gained 43,000 employees.
Still, Steve Blitz, chief economist at ITG, told the New York Times that, while the economy may not be adding high-income jobs, “work is work. It’s honorable.”