NEW YORK — Oil prices hit a two-year high Friday after the U.S. government said the unemployment rate fell to 8.9 percent in February.
The Labor Department said the economy added 192,000 jobs last month. That suggests more people will be commuting at a time when world oil supplies are under pressure because of crisis in the Middle East.
Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude for April delivery gained $1.27 to $103.17 per barrel in New York. The price jumped to $103.57 per barrel earlier in electronic trading, the highest since Sept. 29, 2008.
Gasoline prices have shot up by an average of 35 cents per gallon since an uprising in Libya began in mid-February. A gallon of regular unleaded gained another 4.4 cents overnight to a new national average of $3.47 per gallon, according to auto club AAA, Wright Express and the Oil Price Information Service.
In Libya, tensions escalated further on Friday as forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi used tear gas to repel protesters marching on Tripoli. Most of Libya's oil production has been shut down because of the crisis, and experts say the country's oil fields will be in danger as long as there's no clear leader in charge.
In other Nymex trading for April contracts, heating oil and gasoline futures added a penny to $3.06 and $3.04 per gallon, respectively. Natural gas lost 2 cents to $3.76 per 1,000 cubic feet.
In London, Brent Crude added 62 cents to $115.41 per barrel on the ICE Futures Exchange.