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U.S. Jobless Rate Ticks Down to 8.8 percent

The U.S. Labor Department said Friday that the unemployment rate ticked down to 8.8 percent in March, marking 13 consecutive months of private employment growth and down from 8.9 percent the month before.

Employers added 216,000 net jobs in March, above the 190,000 analysts had projected and higher than the revised 194,000 jobs figure in February 2011.

The unemployment rate fell for the fourth straight month, with a full percentage point drop since November last year.

Employment growth occurred in almost every sector. There were employment increases in professional and business services (+78,000), education and health services (+45,000), leisure and hospitality (+37,000), wholesale and retail trade (+31,800), and manufacturing (+17,000).

The local government sector experienced a decline of 15,000 jobs, and has shed positions in 16 of the past 17 months.

Despite today’s good news on the jobs front, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers Austan Goolsbee said there was still considerable work to be done.

“As long as millions of people are looking for jobs, there is still considerable work to do to replace the jobs lost in the downturn,” Goolsbee said in a statement. “Nonetheless, the steep decline in the jobless rate and the solid employment growth in recent months are encouraging. The last two months of private job gains have been the strongest in five years. We are seeing signs that the initiatives put in place by this Administration – such as the payroll tax cut and business incentives for investment – are creating the conditions for sustained growth and job creation.”

Broad unemployment, another measure which captures discouraged workers who have given up looking for a job and those who are working part-time, but would wish to work full time, remained a high 15.7 percent in March, falling from 15.9 percent the previous month.

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