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Economy adds 431,000 jobs in March; jobless rate, unemployed near prepandemic levels

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Economy adds 431,000 jobs in March; jobless rate, unemployed near prepandemic levels
The Fearless Girl Statue is seen outside the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street in New York City. The Labor Department said Friday that the economy added about 431,000 new jobs in March, slightly fewer than most experts anticipated. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

April 1 (UPI) -- A month after shattering expectations on Wall Street, the Labor Department on Friday underwhelmed just a little bit with its March jobs report -- showing about 60,000 fewer than expected.

The department issued its monthly labor assessment and said the U.S. economy added 431,000 jobs last month. Most economists expected the report to show around 490,000 new hires.

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Friday's report also showed that the national unemployment rate in March declined to 3.6%. In fact, the unemployment rate and total number of unemployed are close to what they were before the start of the COVID-19 era two years ago.

"Notable job gains continued in leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, retail trade and manufacturing," the department said in its assessment.

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"The unemployment rate declined by 0.2 percentage point to 3.6% in March, and the number of unemployed persons decreased by 318,000 to 6 million. These measures are little different from their values in February 2020 (3.5% and 5.7 million, respectively), prior to the coronavirus pandemic."

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A month ago, the department blew away analysts' expectations by reporting close to 700,000 new jobs in February. Although it slightly missed expectations this month, experts agree that the report shows the job market on stable footing.

"In 2021, we saw the most jobs created in a single year, and March gains brought the total number of jobs added under President Biden to 7.9 million, an average of 565,000 jobs added per month," Rep. Don Beyer, chairman of the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee, said in a statement emailed to UPI.

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"Ninety-three percent of the jobs lost due to the pandemic have been regained, the unemployment rate is nearly at pre-pandemic levels and unemployment claims are near 50-year lows -- all signs that our labor market is impressively healthy," Beyer, D-Va., added.

The Joint Economic Committee is responsible for reporting on U.S. economic health and advising ways to improve. Republican members of the committee did not immediately comment on the jobs report.

President Joe Biden speaks about the March jobs report on Friday in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI

President Joe Biden praised the figures in a customary briefing at the White House late Friday morning.

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"Americans are back to work. And that's good news for millions of families who have a little more breathing room, and the dignity that comes from earning a paycheck, just the dignity of having a job," Biden said, noting that almost 8 million jobs have been added to the economy since he took office 14 months ago.

"But what's even more striking is this: In March, the unemployment rate fell to 3.6%, down from 6.4% when I took office about 15 months ago -- the fastest decline in unemployment to start a president's term ever recorded."

On Wednesday, ADP and Moody's Analytics reported that the private sector created 455,000 jobs in February -- down from the past two months, but still hovering around the half-million mark.

Worker mobility continues to hover near all-time highs this year. The Labor Department said earlier this month that more than 4 million U.S. workers quit their jobs in February with 11.3 million job openings.

On Thursday, the department said that there were about 202,000 new unemployment claims last week, a slight increase from the week before.

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