NEW YORK - Hiring and the hope for happiness on a holiday weekend sent stock markets soaring Thursday.
"Right now the story is 'onward and upward,' " said Neil Massa, senior trader at John Hancock Asset Management.
The Dow Jones industrial average topped 17,000 for the first time, the index's first 1,000-point milestone this year.
The market rose from the opening of trading after the government reported that U.S. employers hired more employees than investors and economists expected. Trading was extremely light, though, and ended at 1 p.m. ahead of the July Fourth holiday Friday.
The gains add to what has been a strong six weeks for Wall Street. Along with the Dow hitting 17,000, the Standard & Poor's 500 index is approaching its own milestone of 2,000. The indexes have risen as a steady stream of good news on jobs and manufacturing bolsters investor confidence.
The Dow rose 92.02 points, or 0.5 percent, to 17,068.26. The S&P 500 rose 10.82 points, or 0.6 percent, to 1,985.44, and the Nasdaq composite rose 28.19 points, or 0.6 percent, to 4,485.93.
Investors cheered the latest jobs report from the Department of Labor, which said U.S. employers added 288,000 workers to their payrolls in June, far more than forecast. The unemployment rate fell to 6.1 percent.
"It topped even some of the most optimistic of forecasts," Massa said.
Besides the jobs report, this week the Institute for Supply Management said the U.S. manufacturing sector expanded for the 13th consecutive month.
While the Dow's passing of 17,000 is a notable milestone, most of Wall Street doesn't focus on it. The vast majority of mutual funds and investors use the broader S&P 500 index as their benchmark for how they are performing. In fact, the Dow has lagged behind the rest of the stock market this year. The index is up 3 percent in 2014 compared with the S&P 500's rise of 7.4 percent.
"That said, investors should be feeling good about Dow 17,000," Scott Wren, a senior equity strategist with Wells Fargo Advisors, wrote in a note to investors. "The stock market has more than recovered from levels seen during the financial crisis more than five years ago. Slow and steady can win the race; and it has."
Among individual stocks, the pet supply chain PetSmart rose the most in the S&P 500. PetSmart gained $7.48, or 13 percent, to $67.28 after the activist investor firm Jana Partners disclosed a 9.9 percent stake in the company.
Investors sold bonds after the strong jobs report. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.64 percent from 2.63 percent late Wednesday.