NEW YORK — After weeks of conflicting signals about the strength of the economy, a big gain in the jobs market gave Wall Street reason to celebrate Friday.
The stock market surged, traders donned party hats, and the wave of buying drove two indexes through major milestones.
“There’s euphoria today,” said Stephen Carl, the head equity trader at The Williams Capital Group.
The Dow Jones industrial average punched through another milestone, 15,000, before easing back. The S&P 500 index closed above 1,600 for the first time.
The Dow rose 142.38 to close at 14,973.96, up 1 percent. The S&P 500 surged 16.83, also 1 percent, to 1,614.42. The Nasdaq index rose 38.01 to 3,378.63, up 1.1 percent.
A surprisingly strong job report set it all off. U.S. employers added 165,000 new workers in April, and many more in February and March than previously estimated. The unemployment rate fell to the lowest level in four years, 7.5 percent.
The surge in U.S. hiring comes after weeks of conflicting signals about the strength of the global economy. The unexpectedly strong numbers jolted markets higher from the start of trading.
On the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, brokers sported baseball caps emblazoned with “Dow 15,000.”
The gains were broad-based.
“We’re breaking through psychological barriers and that will continue to bring investors off the sidelines,” said Darrell Cronk of Wells Fargo Private Bank. He called the jobs news “wonderful.”
For more than a month, investors have had to wrestle with worrying reports. First came news of falling retail sales in March, then a series of weak manufacturing reports and signs of a slowdown in China.
The earnings season has been mixed too. Though profits have been higher than expected, many companies have reported little or no revenue growth, which has spooked investors.
Investors also have been concerned that higher Social Security taxes and government spending cuts will slow growth and pinch corporate profits.
Friday’s jobs numbers suggested that the private sector might be strong enough to overcome those obstacles.
In its report, the government revised its previous estimate of job gains up to 332,000 in February and 138,000 in March. The economy has created an average of 208,000 jobs a month from November through April, compared to the 138,000 added in the previous six months.
“Jobs are key,” said Randall Warren, chief investment officer of Warren Financial Service. “Everyone is worried about things like fiscal policy, the government spending money it doesn’t have. If you want to turn that situation around, you have to get people off their couches.”
Some investors struck a skeptical note.
Tim Biggam, chief market strategist at TradingBlock in Chicago, said he thought the market was being driven higher by investors hoping that the Federal Reserve’s efforts to help the economy will keep working. Biggam said they are ignoring troublesome trends.
“This may be the time you want to avoid getting in the market in my opinion, rather than jump in,” he said.