192,000 Jobs Added in March, Unemployment Stays Steady

The economy continued to be lifted out of the recession in March, according to Friday's new jobs report. 192,000 new jobs were added last month as the number of private-sector employees rose past their January 2008 levels, when the recession began. But even with that encouraging increase, unemployment stayed steady at 6.7 percent.

First, the good news. Employment gains were almost entirely in the private sector, especially in business services, health, and education. The growth in jobs is likely linked to springtime's milder weather, which also led to an increase in working hours: in March, the average workweek rose from 34.3 to 34.5 hours. Even January and February's job numbers weren't as bad as initially believed, with economists adding 37,000 jobs to those months' initial total numbers.

But we still have a long way to go. Total employment is still 437,000 jobs short of its January 2008 peak, largely because governments at all levels are employing fewer workers, and they added no jobs in March. Unemployment has also remained at a steady 6.7 percent due to the fact that, though 503,000 Americans found employment in March, just as many more entered the job market with no success.

Still, though not as shout-it-from-the-rooftops exciting as it looks, the latest jobs report is encouraging. The ratio of employed people in the total working-age population increased to 58.9 percent, the highest number since August 2009. The number of long-term unemployed also fell by 110,000, and the number of people discouraged in their job searches also fell, to its lowest number since March 2009.