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In March Jobs Report, Market Awakens From A Winter Swoon

The U.S. economy added 192,000 jobs in March, according to data released this morning. The unemployment rate refused to budge, though, holding steady at 6.7 percent.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel in Washington.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block at member station KERA in Dallas. It looks like the U.S. job market has shaken off its winter chill. According to the government's monthly jobs report, employers added 192,000 jobs to their payrolls in March. That's just above the average for the past 12 month. NPR's John Ydstie has more.

JOHN YDSTIE, BYLINE: There had been some concern that the weakness in the U.S. economy during the winter might be more than a weather-related swoon, but Jim O'Sullivan, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, says this report should ease those concerns.

JIM O'SULLIVAN: From a growth perspective, it was a pretty positive report. I mean, I think when you look at the average for payrolls for the first quarter, 178,000 per month including the revisions to January and February, I mean, those are pretty good gains.

YDSTIE: Despite the relatively strong job growth in March, the unemployment rate remained at 6.7 percent. That's partly because the number of workers in the labor force jumped by half a million last month. That's a positive sign, says chief White House economist Jason Fuhrman.

JASON FUHRMAN: That's part of a general pattern that as the economy strengthens, you'll see some people coming back looking for jobs and that's a good thing.

YDSTIE: The U.S. job market also passed an important milestone in March: the total number of workers on private employer payrolls passed 116 million. That exceeds the previous record set before the great recession, says former Federal Reserve governor Randall Kroszner.

RANDALL KROSZNER: After five long years, we've finally gotten back to where we were five or six years ago. That suggests that we have made progress, but this has been very slow and painful progress.

YDSTIE: Kroszner, who is now a professor at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business, says it's taken so long partly because of the extraordinary depth of the recession, the budget cuts and tax hikes that Washington imposed on the economy, and uncertainty among employers surrounding the Affordable Care Act. One measure of the continued stress in the labor market is the number of people working part time who want a full time job.

That number increased by 225,000 in March. Kroszner points out that Fed Chair Janet Yellen has said that situation justifies continued Fed support for the economy.

KROSZNER: The data in this report on part time employees would suggest that it's going to be a long time before we see the Fed raise interest rates.

YDSTIE: John Ydstie, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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