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Finally, US economy adds 162,000 jobs

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Eric Risberg/AP

(Read caption) On Tuesday, job seekers waited in line to attend a career fair put on by National CareerFairs in San Jose, Calif. The US 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.

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More than two years after the great recession began, US employment showed signs of making a convincing rebound.

The economy added 162,000 jobs in March, easily topping much weaker increases in November and January, the Department of Labor reported Friday. The unemployment rate stayed the same at 9.7 percent.

The employment numbers were swelled somewhat by the federal government hiring 48,000 temporary census workers. Even without government hiring and another 40,000 temporary workers that companies added to their payrolls, the private sector managed to add more than 80,000 full-time jobs in March.

"This is a good solid jobs report," says Scot Melland, CEO of Dice Holdings, which runs specialized career websites in the technology, financial services, and healthcare industries. "You did have private-sector, full-time hiring going on. Companies only do that if they believe their business is stabilized."

Among the industries doing the strongest full-time hiring were healthcare (up 27,000) and manufacturing (up 17,000). The industries still laying off workers included financial activities (down 21,000) and information (down 12,000).

"Even allowing for a rebound in March after any distortions related to the severe winter weather in February, it looks like the recovery has finally reached the point where it is actually boosting employment," writes Paul Ashworth, a Toronto-based economist with Capital Economics, in a written analysis.

The next challenge is to bring down the unemployment rate by creating jobs faster than the workforce is growing. That natural rate of growth is about 100,000 jobs a month, says John Canally, an economist with LPL Financial, based in Boston.

So even stronger jobs reports will be needed in the months to come.


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