The U.S. economy has reached a milestone: It finally has regained all the private-sector jobs it lost during the Great Recession.
Yet it took a painfully slow six years, and unemployment remains stubbornly high at 6.7 percent.
The comeback figures were contained in a government report Friday that showed a solid if unspectacular month of job growth in March.
Businesses and nonprofits shed 8.8 million jobs during the 2007-09 recession; they since have hired 8.9 million. But because the population has grown since the big downturn, the economy is still millions of jobs short of where it should be by now.
Also, government jobs are still 535,000 below the level they were at when the recession began in December 2007. That’s why the overall economy still has 422,000 fewer jobs than it did then.
As a result, most analysts were hardly celebrating the milestone.
Heidi Shierholz, an economist at the liberal Economic Policy Institute, called it a “pretty meaningless benchmark economically.”
“The potential labor force is growing all the time, so the private sector should have added millions of jobs over the last six-plus years,” she said.
U.S. employers did add a seasonally adjusted 192,000 jobs in March, just below February’s 197,000, which was revised higher. March’s figure nearly matched last year’s average monthly gain, suggesting that the economy has recovered from the hiring slowdown caused by severe weather in December and January.
“We’re seeing sustained improvement,” said Scott Anderson, chief economist at Bank of the West. “But we’re not really that much stronger than we were last year. And we need more improvement for a stronger economy to come into fruition.”