Aside from the volatility in the stock market Thursday and Friday, last week yielded some positive signs that the economy is getting back on track, including an announcement by the Department of Labor that total employment grew by 290,000 in April
Since December, factory employment has increased by 101,000, according to the Department of Labor.
Since December, factory employment has increased by 101,000, according to the Department of Labor.
, the largest sequential jump since March 2006. This compares to losing 528,000 jobs in April 2009.

After losing a total of 6,600 jobs in February and March, for-hire trucking gained 1,000 jobs in April. "Since equipment utilization rates, especially in the truckload sector, are improving significantly, it wouldn't be surprising to see industry employment rebound in the months ahead," said Bob Costello, chief economist of the American Trucking Associations, in his Weekly Economic Recap. "Eventually, carriers will have to add trucks, and thus drivers, to take on additional loads."

Manufacturing added 44,000 jobs in April. Since December, factory employment has risen by 101,000. The sector saw employment up in several durable goods industries, including fabricated metals, up 9,000, and machinery, which gained 7,000. Employment also grew in nondurable goods manufacturing by 14,000.

The bad news from the DOL was that transportation and warehousing jobs were down by 19,500 in April, as the rail, air and water industries had to cut people, Costello said. Despite the employment gains, the unemployment rate went from 9.7 percent to 9.9 percent during the first three months of the year.

Costello explained the gap between the gain in jobs and the worsening unemployment rate in this way: "Discouraged workers left the labor force during the recession, and thus were not counted as unemployed. These workers are now seeking jobs and, as a result, are once again counted as unemployed."

Another piece of good news that came out of the Labor Department this week was a 3.6 percent increase in labor productivity for the first quarter. Output was up 4.4 percent and hours worked jumped 0.8 percent. From the first quarter of 2009, productivity rose 6.3 percent, the largest boost since 1962.

Within the manufacturing sector, productivity gained 2.5 percent in the first quarter, as output rose 7.5 percent and hours worked were up 4.9 percent.