WASHINGTON — U.S. employers added jobs at a solid pace in March and hired more people in January and February than previously thought. Friday’s government report sent a reassuring signal that the economy withstood a harsh winter that had slowed growth.
The economy gained 192,000 jobs in March, the Labor Department said Friday, slightly below February’s revised total of 197,000. Employers added a combined 37,000 more jobs in January and February than previously estimated.
The unemployment rate was unchanged at 6.7 percent. But a half-million Americans started looking for work last month, and most of them found jobs. The increase in job-seekers is a sign that they were more optimistic about their prospects.
“We’re back to where we were before the weather got bad,” said John Canally, economist at LPL Financial. “It’s a nice, even report that suggests the labor market is expanding.”
March’s job gain nearly matched last year’s average monthly total, suggesting that the job market has mostly recovered from the previous months’ severe winter weather.
Stocks fell in afternoon trading, and the yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.75 percent from 2.8 percent late Thursday.
The March report included one milestone: More than six years after the Great Recession began, private employers have finally regained all the jobs lost to the recession. Businesses and nonprofits shed 8.8 million jobs in the downturn; they’ve since hired 8.9 million. Still, the population has grown over that time, leaving the unemployment rate elevated.
And many of the new jobs pay less than the ones they replaced. Last month, most of the hiring was in lower-paying industries: Temporary help agencies added 28,500 positions. Hotels and restaurants added 33,100, and retailers added 21,300.
Higher-paying positions didn’t fare as well. Manufacturers shed 1,000 jobs, the first such drop since July. And professional and technical services, which includes accountants, engineers and information technology workers, added just 10,400.