U.S. Jobless Rate Falls to Two-year Low of 8.8%

216,000 jobs were added in March, up 11% from February

For the fourth straight month, the unemployment rate fell to 8.8% from 8.9% in February, the Labor Department announced on April 1.

The economy added 216,000 nonfarm jobs last month, an increase of 11% from February.

The number of new jobs sharply topped the consensus forecast of 185,000, and gave fresh signs of momentum in a turnaround in the troubled labor market.

The February payrolls number was revised slightly higher, to 194,000.

"The jobs drought may finally be over but important challenges remain," explains Peter Morici, professor at the University of Maryland School. "Gains in the range of 200,000 a month are not enough to push unemployment down to acceptable levels. Continued dependence on foreign oil, the growing trade deficit with China, and health care and tax policies that penalize the location of businesses in the United States are responsible for slower jobs creation than has been accomplished during past recoveries and that could still be achieved."

Morici adds that the economy must add 13 million private sector jobs over the next three years --360,000 each month -- to bring unemployment down to 6%. Core private sector jobs must increase at least 300,000 a month to accomplish that goal. In March and February, the private sector added 183,000 and 157,000 new positions, respectively.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011

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