308,000 New jobs last month US March Job Growth Surprises with Strength By Tim Ahmann WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. employment rose last month at the fastest pace in nearly four years as hiring increased across a wide array of industries, the government said on Friday in a surprisingly strong report that stunned financial markets. The report offers comfort to President Bush as the jobs market -- a hot political issue in the U.S. presidential campaign -- finally made a decisive break out of a long slump. Nevertheless, U.S. jobs lost since Bush took office still number a hefty 1.8 million. Non-farm payrolls climbed 308,000 in March, helped a bit by the return of workers after a labor dispute at California grocery stores ended, the Labor Department said. This was the biggest gain since April 2000 and well above the 103,000 rise expected on Wall Street. The big jump in March payrolls stood in sharp relief to the average gains of around 75,000 seen in the prior six months. The unemployment rate, which is determined by a separate survey, ticked up to 5.7 percent from the two-year low of 5.6 percent seen in January and February. The stock market opened strongly, the value of the dollar shot higher and U.S. bond prices plunged as investors were caught flat-footed by the labor market strength. Rest of story Compare the unemployment numbers from 1996 to today. Remember how great the job market looked in 1996? Unemployment then was 5.6%. So for those who insist on whining about how terrible the job market is, could it be the reason you can't find a job is because they were filled while you wallowing in self-pity?