American businesses created another 192,000 jobs last month and more than a half million workers surged back into the labor force to find jobs amid signs of a rebound in hiring after a long, cold winter, the Labor Department reported Friday.
The report included an important milestone for the American economy. After five years of recovery, employment in the private sector last month reached and exceeded by 110,000 the peak level of employment set before the Great Recession of 2007-2009.
Because of continuing job losses in the government, overall employment remains 437,000 below its pre-recession peak.
The substantial gains in employment, including 36,000 more jobs than detected earlier by the department in January and February, left the unemployment rate at 6.7 percent.
Flooded with orders from customers, employers also increased their workers’ hours to meet the demand, sending the average workweek up by 0.2 hours to 34.5 hours.
Most industries saw job gains, with particular strength in construction, health care, mining, restaurants and professional and business services. The federal government shed another 8.000 jobs, bringing its total job losses in the last year to 85,000.
“The February and March payroll numbers are promising and suggest that the economy is shaking off the effects of the inclement weather,” said Joseph Lake, U.S. economist at the Economist Intelligence Unit. “This bounce in economic activity is driving companies to hire at a faster rate.”
The surge of more than a half million idled workers back into the labor force is the first such sign of strength in four years and signals that the labor force “is shedding some of the slack” left over from the recession, he said.
But a decline in hourly compensation in March, which had advanced strongly in February, means that wages for now remain stagnant as workers have been unable to demand more pay from their bosses.
“This was a solid employment report,” said Bill McBride, analyst at Calculated Risk Economics.
It has taken years longer to recover the more than 8 million jobs lost during the recession than previous post-World War II recessions, where not as many millions of jobs were lost.
“This shows the depth of the recent employment recession — worse than any other post-war recession — and the relatively slow recovery due to the lingering effects of the housing bust and financial crisis,” Mr. McBride said.