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At Last, Robust Job Growth

What's more, the gains can be found across the country and in a wide range of professions.

A big sigh of relief wafted from Wall Street to Main Street, a reaction to the job numbers posted in March. Stronger gains than expected signal that the recovery is taking hold. And that’s no April Fool’s joke.

The net job increase of 216,000 in March follows February’s solid gain, which was revised up to 194,000. The unemployment rate dipped a tick to 8.8%, the lowest since 8.6% in March 2009. Hiring was broad-based, with manufacturing, bars and restaurants, health care and professional services all growing.

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Not all the news is bright, though. The number of people working part-time who want a full-time job didn’t budge, holding steady at 8.4 million. And temp services posted a healthy gain of 29,000, indicating that many managers remain cautious about permanently adding to payrolls. Plus average hourly earnings were unchanged for the month. Up 1.7% over the past 12 months, they’re not keeping up with inflation, which increased about 2% over that period.

Figure that about 2 million jobs will be created this year -- good, but not good enough. More than 8 million jobs were lost due to the recession, leaving much ground to make up.

One big plus for the economy is the strength of manufacturing coming out of the recession. Jerry Jasinowski, former president of the National Association of Manufacturers, points out that U.S. factory output in inflation-adjusted dollars is twice what was in the 1970s. And although jobs have been slow to recover, they are growing. After 12 straight years of decline through 2009, U.S. manufacturers have added 205,000 jobs since February 2010.

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What’s more, nearly all states are enjoying the upswing. Only two, Nevada and Mississippi, remain in recession, according to analysis by Moody’s Analytics. Steve Cochrane, managing director with Moody’s, adds that several more are in peril of sliding back due to the renewed weakness in home prices and construction. They include Arizona, Utah, Montana, Idaho, Florida and both of the Carolinas.

Global growth, nourishing U.S. exports, will be a particular boon for many areas. Increased orders for commercial airplanes and parts, for example, will boost business in Seattle and Wichita, where Boeing has locations, and also in places such as Hartford, Conn., and Charleston, S.C., where critical components are made. The Pacific Northwest, as well as parts of California, will benefit from increased trade with Asia, while robust demand for agricultural commodities is good news for the Farm Belt.

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