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Blog Buzz: March unemployment

The reaction to the news that the unemployment fell to 8.8% in March was received soberly by bloggers on the left and the right.

White House chief economic adviser Austan Goolsbee laid out the official White House view in his own blog post.

As long as millions of people are looking for jobs, there is still considerable work to do to replace the jobs lost in the downturn. Nonetheless, the steep decline in the jobless rate and the solid employment growth in recent months are encouraging.

Goolsbee also noted in his post that this month of job growth was driven primarily by increased employment, not people leaving the labor force – a point that conservative blogger Ed Morrissey at Hot Air also picked up on.  Both Morrissey and bloggers on the left noted, however, that while the addition of 216,000 jobs is good news, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the jobs lost in the recession.

As good as that news is, it will take a very, very long time to create enough jobs to restore the pre-crash levels of employment.  The civilian participation rate has not changed from its previous 64.2%, which means that those who have stopped looking for work are still sitting on the sidelines.  A year ago, that number was 64.9%.  At this rate, it will take more than five years to add six million jobs back into the economy.  However, one other sign of good news was a slight drop in the number of people not in the work force (a drop of 11,000), which was the first time in more than two years that number has not risen.

The top-line number is still deceptive in that it compares apples to oranges on unemployment, thanks to the depressed participation rate, but it’s good news to see job additions rise above 200,000 for the second straight month.

Meteor Blades at the liberal blog Daily Kos has a similar reaction, noting that the projected number of jobs added this year is nowhere near the number lost at the end of 2007, as well as the low percentage of unemployed people actively looking for work.

At the current rate of hiring, however, the number of Americans with a job will not reach the pre-recession peak until January 2014. And the current rate of hiring is exactly what most analysts predict will be the case. By the end of the year, that might mean 2.5 million new jobs. But 8.4 million jobs were lost in the downturn, which began in December 2007. The unemployment rate is now at the same level as it was two years ago. But that's partly a reflection of the fact so many people have stopped looking for work, which means they're no longer counted among the unemployed. If they rejoin the labor force but can't find jobs, the unemployment rate will rise.

A few liberal blogs used the news to accuse Republicans of enacting policies that stunted further growth.

Liberal Comrade DougJ at Balloon Juice:

 It’s pretty clear the markets are responding to the clarity of House Republicans’ policy goals.

Washington Monthly’s Steve Benen blames Republican federal and state legislators for budget cuts that translated into public sector job losses.

The 8.8% unemployment rate, while obviously still way too high, is now at its lowest level in two years. What's more, the 216,000 created in March was the best month in about a year, and improved upon February's encouraging numbers.

Also note, the total would have been even higher had it not been for state and local budget cuts -- the private sector added 230,000 jobs, but the public sector lost 14,000 jobs. Those were jobs that could have been saved were it not for conservative fiscal policies.