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Jobs growth in March seen throughout the economy

One month doesn't make a trend, but recent gains in job growth were broad-based across the economy. GDP forecasts have edged up, too. This bodes well for a jobs recovery that’s better than what followed the 2001 recession.

Job seekers at a career fair in San Jose, Calif., March 31. Hundreds turned out for the three-hour event. The nation's economy created the largest number of jobs last month since the recession began, while the unemployment rate remained at 9.7 percent for the third straight month.

Eric Risberg/AP

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The US economy added 162,000 jobs in March, signaling what may be a turning point from “jobless recovery” to sustained expansion of jobs.

The job gains were based broadly throughout the economy, including manufacturing, construction, and services as well as temporary Census jobs created in government, the Labor Department reported.

The news doesn’t mean a quick drop in America’s high unemployment rate – which remained stuck at 9.7 percent for the month – but economists see the numbers released Friday as a harbinger of modest revival.

'The best report in three years'

“This is the best [job] report we’ve seen in three years,” says Mark Vitner, an economist at Wells Fargo Securities in Charlotte, N.C. “It’s not getting better as fast as we’d like it to, but it’s not as dire as it used to be.”

He notes that some of the March job gains reflect seasonal or temporary factors, such as a bounceback in the construction trades after some unusual weather problems during the winter. And government stimulus programs continue to provide much of the fuel for private-sector demand.

Still, after two bleak years for the job market, it suddenly looks a lot more like economic springtime.

In all, the economy posted net job gains of 15,000 in construction, 17,000 in manufacturing, 11,000 in professional and business services, and 45,000 in healthcare and education, among other categories. The job gains also included jumps in the retail sector, a continuing strong rise in temporary-help positions, and a Census-driven gain of 39,000 jobs in government.

What next?

Mr. Vitner expects more job gains in the next few months, but then some slowdown in the jobs recovery as things like Census hiring and home-buyer tax credits fade out.

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