US non-farm payrolls, a key measure of the economy旧 health, rose last month for only the third time since recession struck in late 2007, as the private sector stepped up hiring at the fastest pace in almost three years.
Employers added 162,000 jobs last month, the US Labor Department said yesterday, leaving the jobless rate steady at 9.7 percent for the third straight month.
The payrolls increase was the largest since March 2007 as private employers hired more workers than expected, but temporary hiring for the census was less than what economists had forecast.
Payrolls for January were revised upward to show a 14,000 gain instead of a loss of 26,000, while February was adjusted to show only a loss of 14,000. Previously, February had been reported as down 36,000.
Analysts polled by Reuters had expected non-farm payrolls to rise 190,000 last month and the unemployment rate to hold steady at 9.7 percent. The median projection from the 20 economists who have forecast payrolls most accurately over the past year predicted 200,000 jobs were created last month.
戦"It happened. Something really big. The economy is roaring back to life in a way that was completely unimaginable a year ago," said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ in New York.
US stock index futures rose slightly after the data, while government debt prices fell. The dollar trimmed gains versus the euro and the yen.
The labor market has lagged the economy旧 recovery from the worst downturn since the 1930s, creating a political challenge for US President Barack Obama.
Job growth is critical to keeping alive the recovery, which started in the second half of last year, once government stimulus efforts and a boost from businesses?rebuilding inventories fade.
About 48,000 temporary workers for the decennial census were hired last month, while private payrolls jumped 123,000, the highest since May 2007. Private payrolls rose 8,000 in February.
Employment last month was also lifted by a snap back from February旧 weather-related losses. Since December 2007, payrolls had contracted every month except in November last year, January and last month.
The bounce back in employment could take some pressure off Obama, who has made putting Americans back to work a top priority. Since the start of the downturn about 8.2 million jobs have been lost.
Despite the sharp turnaround in employment last month, weaknesses still remain. A broad measure of unemployment that includes the number of workers marginally attached to the labor force and those working part time for economic reasons edged up to 16.9 percent from 16.8 percent in February.
About 44.1 percent of unemployed workers last month had been out of a job for 27 weeks or more. The average workweek for all employees rose to 34 hours from 33.9 hours in February.
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