Retail stocks jumped 2.3 percent on Wall Street today — the sector’s largest gain of the year. The rise came amid a general sense of optimism around the employment market. The Labor Department said first-time jobless claims fell by 20,000 last week to 336,000 and economists project that Friday’s employment report will show that 170,000 jobs were added in January. That helped push Wall Street, and retail stocks, higher.

The S&P 500 Retailing Industry Group increased by 19.63 points to 871.65, although the sector is still down 7.3 percent for the year so far. The Dow Jones Industrial Average shot up 188 points, or 1.2 percent, today to 15,628.53.

Among the day’s gainers were J.C. Penney Co. Inc., up 8.4 percent to $5.66; Dillard’s Inc., 5.3 percent to $90.29; Ross Stores Inc., 4.6 percent to $69.31; Abercrombie & Fitch Co., 4.5 percent to $34.18, and Sears Holdings Corp., 4.3 percent to $35.82.

Kohl’s Corp.’s stock gained 3.5 percent to $51.55 even though the company lowered quarterly profit guidance to about $1.53 a diluted share from an earlier range of $1.59 to $1.74, due in to “unanticipated expenses” incurred for its e-commerce business. The company also said its comparable-store sales fell 2 percent in the fourth quarter.

In adjusting the market’s expectations, Kohl’s cited not only lower traffic, a nearly universal complaint among stores analyzing the latter part of the quarter, but “low levels of clearance merchandise” in its discussion of the sales slip in the quarter.

In Europe, stock markets ended their day much in the way they started it, on the upswing as the region’s central banks decided to leave their low interest rates alone.

The FTSE MIB in Milan advanced 2.3 percent to 19,504.24, followed by the CAC 40 in Paris, up 1.7 percent to 4,188.10, and the FTSE 100 in London, ahead 1.6 percent to 6,558.28. The DAX in Frankfurt rose 1.5 percent to 9,256.58.

The euro traded at $1.35 against the dollar, while the pound fetched $1.63 and the Swiss franc went for $1.11.

The day’s biggest gainers included Safilo Group, up 2.8 percent to 17.16, Ferragamo, 2.9 percent to 22.83 euros; Luxottica Group, 2.6 percent to 39.36 euros; The Swatch Group, 3 percent to 99.05 Swiss francs, and Burberry Group, 2.9 percent to 14.84 pounds.

Among the very few stocks that lost ground were Asos.com, falling 1 percent to 61.90 pounds; and Gemfields, 1.5 percent to 0.34 pounds.

Both the Bank of England and the European Central Bank decided to keep interest rates at historic lows. The Bank of England rate will remain at 0.5 percent, with the ECB rate unchanged at 0.25 percent. The Bank of England also said it would not amend its bond-buying program.