After a winter slowdown, the job market hit a milestone in March as the private sector finally recovered all the jobs lost in the 2008 financial crisis.
The U.S. economy added 192,000 jobs, and the unemployment rate remained at 6.7% in March, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday.
Those job gains came entirely from the private sector, as government jobs were flat.
Looking strictly at the private sector, that means the labor market is back to its pre-recession peak.
Could it be a turning point for workers and their wages?
For the last few years, employers have had access to a large pool of potential workers, so there was little incentive to raise wages to retain employees.
Tom Simons, an economist with Jefferies & Co., thinks the job market is nearing a point where that could change. Wages fell by 1 cent in March, but are still up 49 cents from a year ago, according to the BLS.
"We'll be eclipsing the prior peak [for private sector jobs], and finally entering the expansion part of this recovery," Simons said. "We think this is a very significant milestone."
So why doesn't it feel like a recovery?
Given it took four years to get this point, this jobs recovery has been the slowest on record since the Labor Department started tracking the data in 1939.
The private sector data also misses an important piece of the puzzle: It does not factor in the growing population.
For that reason, Heidi Shierholz, a labor economist with the liberal-leaning Economic Policy Institute, calls the private sector jobs number little more than a "psychological milestone."
"I think it's an economically meaningless benchmark," she said. "We need so many more jobs to have the same job market conditions."
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The job market picked up more than expected in February, led by strong hiring in professional and business services.
The U.S. economy added 175,000 jobs last month, an improvement from January and ahead of economists' expectations. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate ticked up to 6.7%, from 6.6% the prior month as more Americans joined the labor force. Both numbers were reported by the Department of Labor on Friday morning.
"It's just a steady-as-she-goes recovery. Not fast enough, but not easy to derail," said Justin Wolfers, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution on Twitter.
Economists had been expecting a weaker jobs number due to colder than usual weather throughout much of the country in February. Ice and snow can postpone hiring if businesses close, or even cause a decline in outdoor jobs, like construction.
That didn't happen though. Instead, hiring picked up across many sectors. Construction added 15,000 jobs, restaurants and bars added 20,100 jobs and education and health services added 33,000 jobs.
By far, the strongest hiring came from professional and business services industries, which include accountants, architects and technology workers. This sector alone added 79,000 jobs last month.
Deloitte CFO Frank Friedman said his company is planning to hire around 19,000 workers this fiscal year, ranging from "a campus kid coming off an undergraduate degree, to a very experienced person that comes in as a partner."
"We are going to continue to hire," he said. "Our business continues to be good and we're optimistic."
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Job growth unexpectedly surges in October, even as the federal government closed its doors for 16 days, CNN's Poppy Harlow reports.
The U.S. economy added 204,000 jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That was well above economists' expectations.
Plus, there was more good news about hiring during the late summer. Revisions showed an extra 60,000 jobs were created in August and September.
Economists were expecting weak job growth, due to uncertainties created by the budget battles in Washington. But the Labor Department noted "there were no discernible impacts of the partial federal government shutdown" on the job growth numbers.
The jobs report also showed the unemployment rate rose slightly to 7.3%, up from 7.2% in September, but economists expect this to be a passing blip. About 448,000 furloughed federal workers were counted as being on temporary layoff, and the next jobs report, due on December 6, will probably show these people were back at work in November.
Overall, the picture certainly isn't completely rosy. About 11.3 million Americans remained unemployed in October - 4 million of whom have been out of work for at least six months.
The unemployment rate fell to its lowest level since November 2008, but the government's latest jobs report still shows a muddled picture of the economy.
According to the September jobs report, which was delayed 18 days by the government shutdown, hiring slowed last month. But the unemployment rate fell as more workers said they got jobs and joined the labor force, CNN's Christine Romans reports.
Employers added 148,000 jobs in September, fewer than the 193,000 jobs added in August, the Department of Labor reported.
But the good news is the unemployment rate fell to 7.2% as 73,000 people joined the labor force and 133,000 people said they got jobs. That's considered encouraging, after months in which thousands of Americans were dropping out of the workforce.
Still, 11.3 million jobless people continued to look for work.