The nation's economy gained 290,000 jobs last month, the biggest monthly jump in four years, the Labor Department reported Friday.

The government also revised upward the preliminary figures for February and March, meaning there has been job growth in each of the first four months of the year.

As the job picture became somewhat rosier, 805,000 discouraged workers - those whose attempts to get hired had stalled - jumped back into the market, pushing the unemployment rate to 9.9 percent from 9.7 percent.

Of course, increased hope on the part of job hunters re-entering the market means "you'll have more jobs, but a bigger supply of people" looking for them, said Gary Huth, the state Labor Department's principal economist for Long Island.

Yes, he said, some discouraged Long Islanders will probably be dusting off their resumes and reconnecting with networking contacts. However, their numbers - and any resulting jump in the area's unemployment rate - are not likely to be as significant as those nationally.

While Long Island clearly has not escaped the recession's impact, compared to the nation as a whole, "we didn't lose so many people; not so many people dropped out. Hopefully our unemployment rate will improve a little faster than the nation's," Huth said. That was 7.2 percent in March, he said, at least 2.5 percentage points below the federal level.

On Long Island, employers said they are noting a resurging sense of job-hunter hope. "The unemployed are now stepping up their games," said Barbara Cohen Farber, executive director of the administrative staffing division of Lloyd Staffing, headquartered in Melville. She said more job hunters are checking in with her, saying, "I heard things are picking up and there are more jobs. What do you have?"

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Indeed, she said, since January, permanent placements have been up in sales, information technology, engineering and administrative jobs. Last month, the nation saw job gains in manufacturing, professional and business services, health care, leisure and hospitality. Uncle Sam also brought on board more temporary workers for Census 2010.

Marci Porcano, branch manger in the Uniondale office of Manpower Inc., an employment services firm, said job hunters seem less desperate. In darker days people had been saying, "Can you help me? Please find me a job."

Now several candidates said they couldn't make job interviews she set up because they had other interviews scheduled for the same time. What's more, she said, she's seeing an increasing number of employed people, fearful earlier to leave their jobs, emboldened to make moves.

Larry Drago, 30, of Smithtown, out of work for more than a year-and-a-half, said that despite "ebbs and flows," his job search has not waned. Indeed, he founded a job-search group for other unemployed marketing professionals, meeting twice a month. As members have announced job-search successes, he said, "it gives all of us more hope and inspiration to keep fighting" and that, "You know what? I could be next."

 

Most recent LI unemployment statistics

 

The Long Island unemployment rate fell to 7.2 percent in March from 7.9 percent in February, according to state labor officials on April 15.

The Island had 5,400 fewer private-sector jobs that month compared with March 2009.

That figure was down dramatically from the 33,000 fewer jobs counted between December 2009 and December 2008.

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The state's next report on Long Island unemployment figures is scheduled for May 20.