by Matthew Rusling
WASHINGTON, April 4 (Xinhua) -- U.S. unemployment rate remained unchanged at 6.7 percent as the economy added fewer-than-expected jobs in March, pointing to a goldilocks employment market, analysts said.
The Labor Department said on Friday some 192,000 non-farm jobs were created in March, less than the market forecast of 200,000, and the figure was slightly lower than the revised 197,000 for February. The number of long-term unemployed, or those who have been jobless for 27 weeks or more, was 3.7 million, accounting for 35.8 percent of the total unemployed.
"All in all, the March jobs was relatively uneventful, as the 192,000 employment growth was close to expectations and close to the average 187,000 per month job gain registered over the prior twelve months," Michael Feroli, chief U.S. economist at JPMorgan, said in a report released Friday.
Minor disappointments, such as the unchanged unemployment rate of 6.7 percent, were offset by minor improvements, such as the two- tick increase in the participation rate to 63.2 percent, he added.
Meanwhile, Heidi Shierholz, economist with Economic Policy Institute, cautioned that there are "many, many miles to go before reaching full employment."
"The overall gap in the labor market, which includes both the private and public sectors, is 7.3 million jobs. At the pace of growth of the last three months, it will take more than 5 years to fill that gap," he said in a report released Friday.
While 192,000 jobs were added in March, the number will not plug the gap caused by a continually growing labor force, as new high school and college graduates are constantly entering the workforce, economists said.
"The private sector should have added millions of jobs over the last six-plus years," Shierholz added, referring to the past several years following the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
Still, Friday's jobs report flashed some underlying strength of the U.S. economy, economists said.
A modest recovery continued as the United States enters spring, bringing the average growth rate of the past three months to 178, 000 jobs.
"Undoubtedly, there was some catch up in hiring following the inclement weather this winter. Still, the underlying hiring trend is encouraging, with more good news expected this spring and summer," said Kathy Bostjancic, director of Macroeconomic Analysis at the Conference Board.
Taking a similar line, Feroli mentioned in the report the remarkably steady growth in hours worked, saying the figure suggested that through the ups-and-downs of economic growth, there is little underlying momentum shift in activity, and the expansion continues at a modestly above-trend pace.
Meanwhile, the share of the working-age population with a job ticked up by one-tenth of a percent, and the labor force participation rate rose by two-tenths of a percent. That means the number of "missing workers" -- workers who have left the labor force due to weak job opportunities -- dropped from 5.7 million to 5.3 million.
This is a step in the right direction, though it should not be overstated, Shierholz argued.