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Great Recession gives way to not-so-great recovery

The latest employment data shows that the U.S. is recovering, but still has a long way to go to

The March employment report shows America’s private sector workforce has finally reached levels not seen since before the financial meltdown in 2008.

The Labor Department says 192,000 private sector jobs were created last month, pushing the total number in those jobs beyond the mark set in January 2008.

“We’ve had 49-consecutive months of private sector job growth to the tune of almost nine million jobs,” Labor Secretary Tom Perez told Al Jazeera’s Ali Velshi. “And when you look at the job mix, over 90 percent of the jobs are full-time jobs, which is better than previous recoveries.”

However, the news isn’t all that good.

Government jobs still haven’t recovered. They remained flat in March.  Average hourly wages declined, and the number of part-time workers increased 225,000. 

“The jobs report this morning really nails down the view that this economy is not really accelerating nor is it really decelerating,” said Steven Ricchiuto, Chief Economist at Mizuho Securities. “We’re stuck in this glide path of an economy that’s either at or slightly below trend and there’s no evidence at all that we’re moving away from that.”

Secretary Perez agrees a lot still needs to be done to get the economy and job creation on  stronger footing.

“We’ve got to pick up the pace,” he said. “And the data point that clearly gives me the most concern is the continuing challenges confronting the long-term unemployed.”

Ricchiuto agrees.

“There are a lot of long-term unemployed,” he said. “Remember, this business cycle has been going on for quite some time and it’s been very, very disappointing.”

Still, today’s report showed more encouraging signs that the job recovery is making slow and steady progress, and that the weakness seen in previous reports was a result of the bad winter weather.  One indication of that-- construction jobs jumped by 19,000.

“A labor market impacted by winter is now recovering at a gradual pace,” said Michael Dolega, Senior Economist at TD Economics. “The recovering housing market has also continued to add construction jobs, with the spring thaw likely to manifest in more sustained gains in homebuilding.”

Other positives in the report: the labor force participation rate — the percentage of those working or actively looking for work — rose to 63.2 percent, from 63 percent. That suggests more people feel good enough about their prospects to try to get back into the workforce. And hours worked were higher.

Dolega sees one other good sign: today’s data will likely keep the Federal Reserve from raising interest rates anytime soon.

“Wage growth remains subdued and will remain a concern for both the sustainability of the consumer-led recovery and inflation,” he noted. “The Fed should have ample room to keep policy accommodative well into 2015, with the first rate hike unlikely to take place until the second half of that year.”

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