162,000 Jobs Added: Recovery's Start or Temporary Boost?

The strongest gains in three years, though the census played a part

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The U.S. economy added 162,000 jobs in March according to a new report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 48,000 of those were temporary hires by the government to conduct the census, but the rest were from private employers. The jobs growth is the largest boost in three years, but unemployment is holding steady at 9.7 percent. What should we make of the gain?

  • Finally, Economic Breakthrough?  The Washington Monthly's Steve Benen is optimistic. "The jobs report is easily the best we've seen since the start of the Great Recession late 2007, and the strongest overall in three years." He passes along the following chart, which shows the monthly job growth or loss since January 2008. Red columns indicate the Bush administration, blue indicates Obama.

  • Industry's Incredible Rebound  MarketWatch's Rex Nutting beams, "Payroll gains were broad based, with 60% of all industries adding workers in March. Goods-producing industries' payrolls rose by 41,000, the first increase since March 2007. Manufacturing payrolls increased by 17,000, with 58.5% of manufacturing industries hiring. Manufacturing hours increased by half an hour to 41 hours per week, with 3.7 hours of overtime on average."
  • Why Unemployment Still Holds  The New York Times' Javier Hernandez explains, "The economy must create 100,000 jobs each month just to absorb new entrants into the labor force, according to many projections. That sustained level of growth may not come until later this year, economists said, making pervasive unemployment a virtual certainty for some time to come. Indeed, the government predicts the jobless rate will average 9.8 percent next year and 8.4 percent in 2012 before falling to 5 percent in 2016."
  • Joblessness Is Actually Up  The Wall Street Journal's Phil Izzo reports that "U-6 unemployment" actually ticked up from 16.8 to 16.9 percent. "The comprehensive gauge of labor underutilization, known as the 'U-6' for its data classification by the Labor Department, accounts for people who have stopped looking for work or who can’t find full-time jobs." That U-6 remains high "indicates the job market has a long way to go before growth in the economy translates into relief for workers."
  • Good News for Democrats  The Hill's Ian Swanson predicts a political boost. The numbers are already "providing a significant political boost to Democrats and the Obama administration," he writes. "The Democratic National Committee pounced on the news, e-mailing reporters news stories highlighting the figures."
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