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Unemployment still at 6.7 percent

The U.S. economy created 192,000 jobs in March and the nation’s unemployment rate held steady at 6.7 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said today.

Employment grew in professional and business services, in health care, and in mining and logging, but the number of unemployed people was essentially unchanged at 10.5 million.

The economy’s performance in March followed a February jobs gain that the government revised upward from 175,000 to 197,000.

Reuters said the labor force participation rate, or the proportion of working-age Americans who have a job or are looking for one, rose to a six-month high of 63.2 percent from 63 percent in February. The percentage of working-age Americans with a job, a broad gauge of labor market health, increased to 58.9 percent last month, the highest level since the summer of 2009.

In another bullish sign for the economy, Reuters said, the length of the workweek increased to 34.5 hours from an average of 34.2 hours in February.

Politico said analysts have been looking to the March jobs report to provide more clarity on how much the severe winter has been hitting the labor market. Weak jobs figures in recent months have been largely blamed on spells of inclement weather,

Austan Goolsbee, President Barack Obama’s former top economic adviser, said today that the March report was “modestly improved” from data earlier this year, but that it was nowhere close to the substantial jump that many observers had been hoping for.

“Everybody who said ‘ah we finally turned the corner, we’re going to be booming like crazy’ — I think they’re going to have to hold off for a few months,” Goolsbee said on CNBC, according to the Politico report.

The government said the number of long-term unemployed — those jobless for 27 weeks or more — was 3.7 million, little changed in March; those people accounted for 35.8 percent of the unemployed.

The number of people employed part time for economic reasons also was little changed, at 7.4 million. Those people were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find full-time work.

Politico said the March report comes ahead of a meeting of the Federal Reserve’s policy-making committee in late April, when it will announce the next steps for the central bank’s economic stimulus programs. The Federal Open Market Committee has been scaling back the Fed’s massive quantitative easing program — in which it buys tens of billions of dollars’ worth of bonds each month to keep long-term interest rates low — by $10 billion a meeting.

The widespread consensus among Fed watchers is that tapering will continue at this rate for the foreseeable future unless there is evidence that growth has stalled and the unemployment rate remains stuck at current levels.

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