U.S. employers stepped up their hiring in April, adding 290,000 new jobs, the Commerce Department reported Friday.

The data was artificially inflated by the hiring of 66,000 temporary government workers to conduct the national census, but the private sector also stepped up with its best showing since March 2006, adding 231,000 jobs.

Curiously, the unemployment rate actually increased by 9.7 per cent to 9.9 per cent as more than 800,000 people restarted previously abandoned job searches.

"It should resume its gradual downward trend in coming months, though," BMO economist Sal Guatieri noted.

Job gains were widespread: Manufacturers, construction companies, retailers, professional and business services, education and health services, leisure and hospitality, and government all showed gains.

Average hourly earnings of all employees increased by one cent to $22.47 in April, the data showed. Over the past 12 months, average earnings have increased by 1.6 per cent.

The agency also revised its March numbers to 230,000, up from the 162,000 new jobs it initially reported. And 39,000 jobs were actually added in February, an improvement from the previous estimate of 14,000 losses.

"The April jobs report is the best evidence yet that a self-sustaining recovery is taking root," Guatieri noted.