Is the Great Recession Drawing to a Close? 162,000 jobs added in March, most in 3 years

The U.S. Labor Department is heralding March’s employment figures – the addition of 162,000 jobs, the most since the recession began but below analysts' expectations of 190,000 – as a sign that the Great Recession has drawn to a close.

  • The U.S. unemployment rate remained at 9.7% for the third straight month. (More Americans entered the work force last month, which prevented the increase in jobs from reducing the unemployment rate.)
  • The total includes 48,000 temporary workers hired for the U.S. Census – fewer than many economists forecast.
  • 15 million Americans are out of work, roughly double the number before the recession began in December 2007.
  • The number of Americans out of work for six months or longer increased to 6.5 million, a record high.
  • More than 44% of those out of work are long-term unemployed – or out of work six months or longer – also a record.
  • More Americans say they are working part-time, although they prefer full-time work. When they and discouraged workers who have given up searching for jobs are included, the "underemployment" rate increased slightly to 16.9%.
  • Average hourly earnings fell by two cents to $22.47, a result of high unemployment enabling companies to hold down wages.

  • At the same time, average weekly earnings rose by about $3 to $629.37, showing that most employers probably are having current employees work longer hours before hiring new workers.
"For those laid off, unemployment is stretching longer and longer and putting severe distress on families." - Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project
Although the increased employment is welcome news, the below-project figure confirms predictions that it will be a very slow recovery. Most economists – who had predicted growth of 190,000 jobs – don't expect new hiring to be fast enough in 2010 to meaningfully reduce the unemployment rate.

"It is still disappointing that it took roughly nine months before we started to see any meaningful rebound" in jobs, Paul Ashworth, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics, wrote in a note to clients.

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