The U.S. jobs market hit a major milestone in March after the private sector finally recovered all the jobs lost in the 2008 financial crisis. Adding 192,000 jobs— primarily in professional and business services, and health and education— the unemployment rate remained steady at 6.7% according to Friday’s report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
At last count about 10.5 million Americans remain unemployed, with 36% of those having been without a job for at least 6 months. Another 7.4 million Americans are working part-time, but would prefer full-time hours.
Despite this, the average workweek rose to 34.5 hours from 34.3 hours, and the share of people working or looking for work rose from 63% to 63.2%, which are both indicators that the work force is moving in a positive direction.
Some economists estimate that the U.S. economy still needs at least another 5 million jobs to get back to a healthy pre-Recession labor market with an unemployment rate of less than 5.5%. At the current rate of growth, that could take another 5 years.
Given that it took four years for the economy to regain ground lost in the Recession, this recovery is the slowest on record since the Labor Department started tracking similar data in 1939. But, the jobs recovery to this point does not factor in the growing population, which leads some labor economists to dismiss the private sector jobs gain as nothing more than a psychological milestone for the economy.