- The Washington Times - Friday, April 2, 2010


The U.S. economy last month started to create jobs again for the first time since the Great Recession took hold in December 2007 in the clearest sign yet that the economic recovery is gathering strength, the Labor Department reported Friday morning.

A healthy gain of 162,000 new jobs were reported by employers, primarily in health care, temporary business services and census-taking. It was the largest gain in over three years.

As expected, temporary hiring by the U.S. Census Bureau accounted for about one-third or 48,000 of the total. But the improving trend was strong enough to keep the unemployment rate at 9.7 percent, and some economists think it may not see double-digit levels again.

The job growth seen last month was the second this year, as revisions by the department showed that 14,000 jobs were created in January and fewer jobs were lost in February than previously reported. While the gains were small, they are welcome news for the nation’s army of 15 million unemployed workers — half of those out of jobs because of the recession.

“It’s springtime for the economy,” said John Silvia, chief economist at Wells Fargo Securities, noting that the report showed distinct improvement in a variety of industries from trade and transportation to leisure and hospitality.

The average workweek grew by 0.1 hour to 34 hours — a development that should be “good for overall growth” in the first quarter of the year, he said.

But average wage gains continued to be anemic, at 1.8 percent over the past year. And the average length of employment remained at record levels over 31 weeks — another “downside” in the report, Mr. Silvia said.

“The improvement is moderate and unfortunately too slow to quickly cure the consumer credit/housing foreclosure issues” that spawned the recession, he said. “Curing a hangover takes more time than it took to get drunk.”

The first job growth in years is good news for President Barack Obama, who has been under a constant barrage of attack from Republicans because his gigantic $800 billion economic stimulus bill last year failed to immediately spur job growth.

But whether the gains will be strong enough to change the outlook for big Democratic losses in the November mid-term congressional elections remains to be seen.

“The pace of private job creation won’t be enough to restore the economy to good health quickly,” said Peter Morici, business professor at the University of Maryland.

“The Great Recession destroyed 8.4 million jobs. To bring down the unemployment rate, the economy must add about 150,000 jobs a month” — something it hasn’t done for over two years, he said.

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