The number of private-sector payroll jobs in the U.S. hit a record high of 116,087,000, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday, marking an important milestone in the country's weak and drawn-out recovery from the financial crisis.
An otherwise modest jobs report showed the U.S. economy adding 192,000 jobs in March, slightly less than the roughly 200,000 expected, and the unemployment rate remained steady at 6.7 percent. The jobs numbers for January and February were also revised up by 37,000.
Private nonfarm payrolls last peaked in January 2008, at 115,977,000. The economy ultimately shed 8.8 million private-sector jobs, bottoming out in February 2010.
When government workers are taken into consideration, the U.S. remains 437,000 jobs short of returning to overall peak employment.
It’s been a long, slow road back. Since the economy began recovering jobs in late 2010, businesses and government have added roughly 180,000 jobs a month, a pace that has been remarkably consistent.
Jobs growth slowed over the course of the winter, amid signs that unusually tough winter storms took a toll on commerce.
But many analysts have suggested that the weather-influenced weakness in January and February was just a “temporary deviation from a still-strong trend,” as Goldman Sachs economists wrote.
Over the past three months, U.S. payrolls have grown by an average of just under 178,000, just at the recovery trend. And in the past year, that average is virtually the same.
Friday’s report contained some indications that growth was slightly stronger than the headline numbers suggest.
The labor force grew by 503,000, and the participation rate edged up from 63 percent to 63.2 percent, up slightly from the lowest levels since the late 1970s.
The expanding labor force means that the unemployment rate remained steady because workers found jobs, and not because workers quit the job hunt and fell out of the ranks of those counted as unemployed. Without the growth in the labor force, the unemployment rate would have fallen.
The U-6 unemployment rate, a broader measure of underemployment that takes into account those forced into part-time work or only marginally attached to the labor force, ticked up, from 12.6 to 12.7 percent. Over the past year, the rate is down 1.1 percentage points.
Average hourly earnings fell by 1 cent, to $24.30, after February's 9-cent gain thought to be influenced by a weather-shortened workweek.
Meanwhile, the length of the average workweek grew by 0.2 of an hour in March. to 34.5 hours.
This story was first published at 8:35 a.m. and has been updated.