The government reported today that the U.S. economy created 216,000 jobs in March, continuing the recent rebound in hiring that has helped strengthen the recovery.
Unemployment dropped a tenth of a point to 8.8%, which is the lowest since March 2009. The unemployment rate has now dropped a full percentage point since November.
"Almost two years after the recession officially ended, the labor market appears to finally be picking up," said Kathy Bostjancic, director for macroeconomic analysis at the Conference Board, a business and economic nonprofit.
The boost in jobs last month followed the addition of 194,000 jobs in February, the Labor Department reported. The economy now has added 1.5 million jobs since its recent low in February.
Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist for the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi in New York said the "powerful forward momentum" in the jobs market was important as the economy faces a headwind from rising gasoline prices.
Job growth in March exceeded economists' estimates of about 200,000. Growth in business and professional services led the way, with 78,000 new jobs. Healthcare, manufacturing, mining and the leisure and hospitality industries also saw significant growth.
Overall, the private sector added 230,000 jobs. But local governments continued to struggle, shedding 16,000 jobs in March. Still, that was a major improvement over the 46,000 government jobs lost in February.
Friday's unemployment report comes on the heels of some recent good news about the economy, although the unrest in the Middle East looms as a potential brake on the recovery.
New claims for unemployment benefits fell last week for the sixth time in seven weeks, dropping to 388,000. There were still 3.7 million people receiving unemployment compensation, but that was the lowest figure since October 2008, down from a peak of 6.6 million in mid-2009.??The Commerce
Department last week said the economy grew at an annual rate of 3.1% in the fourth quarter of 2010, up from an earlier estimate of 2.8%.??The unemployment rate has been moving down steadily since November, when it was at 9.8%. The drop of one percentage point during the next four months was the biggest such decrease since 1983.